Florida has regularly locked up many underage offenders for months or years longer than they were told, shuffling them from program to program and forcing them to restart their terms, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Often, even those who stayed out of trouble and followed the rules were forced to start their terms over. In one case, an 11-year-old wound up serving three years after going into a program that typically lasts three to five months.
The Sentinel analyzed Florida Department of Juvenile Justice data from 1999 through 2003 and found that the state transferred 3,631 offenders during five years, an average of 726 a year and about 10 percent of its annual admissions. The transfers extended the offenders’ stays dramatically — up to four times longer than those who were not moved. The extended stays inflated the cost of treatment at least by an estimated $20.3 million. In most transfers, an offender was moved from one privately run program to another. Children’s advocates argue that the transfers raise serious questions about the ability of the department to manage its programs, most of them operated by private companies.