Florida — Florida arrests more youth under the age of 18 than almost any other state. In 2012 Florida arrested 78,195 youth, 73,371 for non-violent offenses. Many of those youth are arrested for minor offenses (throwing an orange on a bus, stealing a candy bar, etc). These arrests follow them for life locking them out of jobs, the military, and sometimes even college scholarships.
The state has a program called civil citation, which allows law enforcement the ability to divert first time youth who commit a minor offense out of the criminal justice system and into community service programs without receiving an arrest record. Recidivism for Civil Citation is 4% as compared to 13% for those arrested for first time misdemeanors; the recidivism rate is closer to 41% for those sent to detention centers. This means that children who go to the civil citation program are three times less likely to get into trouble again than children who are arrested for the same offenses.
The cost for Civil Citation is $385 as compared to nearly $5,000 for a juvenile to be processed in the Juvenile Court system. Some counties fully use Civil Citations but on a statewide basis only 43% of eligible juveniles were offered Civil Citations for the twelve month period ending June 2015; the result is 11,890 children have been kept out of the program during this period. In 2015 BOLD Justice worked with 9 other DART organizations across the state of Florida to pass SB378. SB378 expands the state’s civil citation program. Previously youth could only receive one civil citation, now they can receive up to three.