Angela Corey, state attorney in Florida’s 4th Judicial Circuit, and Vikrant Reddy of the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation will discuss the role government plays in juvenile justice Wednesday night.The forum, hosted by the James Madison Institute and Florida State University’s Project on Accountable Justice, will focus on developing national trends in juvenile justice and look at what direction the Sunshine State is moving in while its Department of Juvenile Justice also works to rewrite Florida statues, laying the groundwork for legislative action in March.Zero-tolerance policies and the “school-to-prison-pipeline” was hotly debated throughout the summer in Tallahassee as social activists and legislators called for changes in Florida’s laws that they say takes kids out of school and places them into juvenile programs and detention centers.DJJ Secretary Wansley Walters and staff have traveled the state asking for community input on reshaping the agency’s approach to youth criminal justice.Since 2004, when the agency started publishing reports on youth delinquency, the number of school-related arrests, which include those made at bus stops, on buses and at school sponsored events, has declined by 48 percent.Of the state’s 67 counties, 50 operate civil citation programs.DJJ estimates that implementation of civil citations in 30 percent of misdemeanor charges, as an alternative to arrest, saved the state $33.7 million in incarceration costs during 2012.Measures to reduce school-related arrests were taken this week by one of the largest school districts in the country.Broward County school officials alongside police and the state attorney came to an agreement to create alternatives to zero-tolerance policies wherein school principals, not school resource officers, have the say in disciplinary action for minor offenses.Those minor offenses, like truancy and disrupting classes, often are handled with suspension or arrest in districts across the state.Of the 1,062 Broward school-related arrests during the 2011-2012 school year, 71 percent were for misdemeanor offenses. The county recorded the most school based arrests in the state that year.After Tuesday’s agreement, counseling and deferment programs stand in place of arrests for first-time misdemeanors and further incidents are handled through increasingly intense intervention.After five disciplinary incidents, or in the commission of a felony or a serious threat, students are referred to law enforcement.The program, according to Broward superintendent Robert Runcie has reduced school-related arrests by 41 percent since its August implementation, the Associated Press reports.

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