Pinellas County, FL — In 2015 at the FAST Nehemiah Action, FAST asked the mayor of St. Petersburg to prioritize reducing youth arrests when he hired a new police chief. The mayor followed through on his commitment. In the last year the City of St. Petersburg has diverted 89% of eligible youth to our civil citation program. This means that 351 children in St. Petersburg were able to avoid lifelong arrest records during the last year. In addition to using the civil citation program in March, the police chief started the new “Second Chance” Program to give children in St. Petersburg immediate consequences for their offenses without giving them criminal records and without having to transport them to the Juvenile Assessment Center.
Additionally, FAST worked in 2015 to expand the use of the Juvenile Arrest Avoidance Program (JAAP). This program, run through the Juvenile Arbitration process, allows kids to avoid arrest records by receiving other consequences for nonviolent misdemeanors. Last year the Sheriff’s only diverted 66% of eligible youth to our JAAP program. This means that 131 youth received life-long arrest records for non-serious, first time misdemeanors. We discovered that the Sheriff’s office had not been allowing youth who had a previous “no-file” in their records to participate in their program. (“No-file” means that a youth was arrested but the State Attorney did not file charges against the youth, perhaps because they believed the youth did not commit the offense.) This spring, we got the Sheriff to agree that youth with a “no-file” should be given access to the JAAP, and the Sheriff instructed his staff to no longer discriminate against youth with “no-files” in their records.