This week, as the U.S. Supreme Court heard appeals in two Florida juvenile cases, scholars took note that the state leads the nation in locking up kids for life who committed crimes in which no one died. That isn’t Florida’s only distinction, notes the St. Petersburg Times. The state sends more children to adult jails and prisons, period. Laws make it easy for prosecutors to pluck young people out of the juvenile justice system before they turn 18.
And in sheer numbers, Hillsborough County transferred more juvenile cases to the adult system than any other county in fiscal year 2007-08, a review of Florida Department of Juvenile Justice data shows. Percentage-wise, Palm Beach County ranked No. 1, with Pinellas following as a close second among the state’s largest counties. Six Tampa Bay area counties – Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, Citrus and Manatee – deemed juveniles in 1,410 cases bad enough to be charged as adults. Prosecutors say the numbers reflect an aggressive stance against juvenile crime, but they stress that the decision to charge teens as adults isn’t made lightly.