Florida lawmakers want to reform the juvenile justice system
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WJHG/WECP)-Florida tries more kids as adults than any other state in the country, but lawmakers are now preaching reform and are trying to change the law.
98 percent of those cases are due to the state's direct file statute, it basically gives prosecutors the ability to move a juvenile into adult court on a whim.
If two kids commit the same crime in different parts of the state, one may go through the juvenile justice system and the other could be tried as an adult.
Representative Katie Edwards is looking for uniformity.
I want to get every juvenile a first crack at the juvenile system so they get the programs that they need, the services, the support, and make sure that were not diverting a juvenile who could be rehabilitated in the juvenile system, explains Edwards.
Edwards is part of a bipartisan group of Florida lawmakers looking to reform how kids are tried after they've committed crimes in the state. Her bill would require prosecutors to get a judge's approval before they can try a juvenile as an adult.
Of the more than 1200 juveniles tried as adults in 2014 and 2015, a majority of them were for non-violent burglary crimes.
Circuit Judge Terrance Ketchel says the adult system doesn't help most juvenile offenders
Juvenile courts have a lot more services, the adult criminal courts, it's more about punishment, Ketchel discribes.
Former State Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters says many of the teenagers tried as adults end up back in prison again because they weren't properly rehabilitated.
what we're doing is we are seeing kids who are criminally inclined not get the very help to keep them from recidivating, pointed out Walters.
Non-partisan research group the James Madison Institute estimates that reform could save more than 12 million dollars over 10 years, which could then be reinvested for more state juvenile services.
The bill still gives prosecutors the ability to direct file and transfer a kid into adult court for more heinous offenses a juvenile may be charged with, including murder, carjacking, and sexual crimes.