Criminal Justice Reform & Police AccountabilityICARE

Vitti, leaders at interfaith meeting vow to keep pressure on Angela Corey for civil citations for youths

By April 9, 2014July 29th, 2016No Comments

April 8, 2014. Florida Times-Union.

Jacksonville clergy vowed to continue pushing for an increase in civil citations for juveniles Monday night despite a deepening rift with State Attorney Angela Corey over the issue.

A meeting between Corey and area clergy last week came to a quick and contentious end after Corey indicated that she would not support civil citations for juveniles accused of battery. She also declined an invitation to attend the ICARE Nehemiah Assembly Monday night at Potter’s House.

But the 2,000 to 3,000 people in attendance at Monday’s meeting, including Duval School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, indicated they would continue to push for more citations.

“Our hands are tied because we cannot use [civil citations] for battery,” Vitti said. “That needs to change.”

Citations are viewed by many supporters as an alternative way to address criminal issues involving youths that could spare them a criminal record and save money by not incarcerating them.

According to statistics from the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, 26 percent of eligible youths in the 4th Judicial Circuit were served with civil citations from March 2013 to February. The circuit is made up of Duval, Nassau and Clay counties. Statewide, 34 percent of eligible youths received civil citations during the same time period. In Miami-Dade County, 86 percent of eligible youths received civil citations.

Vitti said civil citations help keep students out of jail and he urged the crowed to get involved politically and support them.

“We live in a town where not everyone believes in civil citations,” Vitti said. “Get involved and vote.”

Vitti never mentioned Corey by name, but representatives of ICARE said they were disappointed in her stance and would continue to apply public pressure on her.

ICARE stands for Interfaith Coalition for Action, Reconciliation and Empowerment and is composed of 38 congregations in Duval County.

Nancy Ricker of Arlington Congregational Church expressed frustration at the meeting ICARE had last week with Corey.

The clergy was supposed to meet Corey inside her office last Thursday, but Corey met them at the door and insisted on having the meeting outside the building after expressing unhappiness that the media had been called and members were planning to stand outside as witnesses.

Corey told them their statistics were wrong, and more juveniles were diverted without facing criminal prosecution than they were saying.

Ricker said Monday the statistics were correct, and ICARE would continue to ask Corey to change her policies.


ICARE officials also called for improvements in reading comprehension in Duval public schools and improved mental health care in the county.

Vitti pledged to bring direct instruction to all junior high school students who’d scored low on the FCAT. He also said he was willing to bring it to elementary schools in certain circumstances.

Direct instruction is a phonics-based reading program used in early elementary grades and to help middle-school students catch up. Advocates of the program have said it can drastically improve reading scores.

Vitti also promised to bring accountability boards to all junior high and high schools in Duval County by the end of this school year.

Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown and City Council President Bill Gulliford also committed to starting a committee that will try to bring more employee-owned small businesses to Northwest Jacksonville.

Brown and Gulliford envision creating the committee within the next two months, and said they would meet with ICARE to discuss what the committee will do.

Brown, who had previously made it a goal, said he was happy to keep his promise.

“I am truly humbled to keep my commitment to ICARE,” Brown said. “Just know that your mayor believes in economic opportunity.”

ICARE leaders said unemployment in Northwest Jacksonville is 100 percent higher than other parts of the city, and drastic action needs to occur.

Gulliford said the active creation of more small businesses would help Northwest Jacksonville and the city as a whole.

“As a former CEO I can tell you that small businesses are the backbone of a city,” Gulliford said.

The Rev. Kent Dorsey of Riverside Avenue Christian Church said this had the possibility of creating neighborhoods where people can move up without moving out.