VIEWPOINT: Issuing civil citations instead of arrests reduces future juvenile crime

by American Civil Liberties Union

Should a Florida student have their entire future ruined for a childhood mistake? Does arresting kids make communities safer?
A new study co-sponsored by the ACLU of Florida, “Stepping Up: Florida’s Top Juvenile Civil Citation Efforts 2016,” shows Florida counties that arrest youth rather than issue civil citations or pre-arrest diversion programs for common misbehavior create more reoffenders who generate more crime.

Read the report, “Stepping Up 2016,” and find out where your community stands.

“Stepping Up 2016” looks at publicly available data regarding youth arrests and use of pre-arrest diversion programs like issuing civil citations. The study finds that three counties in Florida — Duval, Hillsborough, Orange — were responsible for 24 percent of all arrests (totaling nearly 3,000) for common youth misbehavior in 2014-2015. The study also shows that increasing the use of civil citations statewide up to 75 percent would enable law enforcement entities to invest up to $62 million in preventing and addressing felonies and serious crimes, as well as significantly improve life outcomes for nearly 12,000 arrested youth.

Florida leads the nation in the prioritization of pre-arrest diversions to curb juvenile crime and reduce incarceration. The study also recognizes the state’s top-performing counties, school districts and law enforcement agencies, as well as recidivism rates of juvenile civil citations compared to post-arrest diversions.

This nonpartisan study was written and researched by Dewey Caruthers, president of Dewey & Associates, with support from the ACLU of Florida, The Children’s Campaign, Southern Poverty Law Center, Florida State University Project on Accountable Justice, James Madison Institute, Jesse Ball DuPont Fund, Florida PTA, and Joseph W. & Terrell S. Clark.

Using pre-arrest diversions should be the presumptive norm for a law enforcement response to common youth misbehavior. This study shows how we can improve juvenile justice work and increase public safety in Florida and across the nation.

Read and share the report to see how civil citations instead of arrests can help kids — and taxpayers — in your community.


Howard Simon
Executive Director

ACLU of Florida

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