The National Council on Crime and Delinquency is calling for widespread reforms in Florida’s juvenile-justice system, says the Orlando Sentinel. The Council contends that the state locks up far too many young offenders, then fails to provide for their health and mental well-being. Florida could safely divert 21,000 juvenile offenders a year — 40 percent of its detention-center population — to their homes or programs that don’t operate like jails, says the Council. If it did, $26 million could be saved each year. The group criticized the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice for allowing the facilities to become crowded, providing spotty medical care and placing too many — 40 percent of the population it surveyed — in solitary confinement. “Now is the time for Florida to substantially reform its juvenile-detention programs,” wrote Barry Krisberg, president of the Oakland, Ca.-based Council, and researcher Vanessa Patino.
An Orlando Sentinel investigation last year found more than 600 confirmed cases of child abuse or neglect at juvenile-justice department facilities from 1994 to 2004. Department of Juvenile Justice spokesman Tom Denham said the same thing about the Council study as he did after the Sentinel investigation: Researchers based findings on outdated information. He said the department is locking up fewer young offenders now than in the 1990s, despite an increase in the number of young people living in Florida. Denham said much of the new study was based on the uncorroborated accounts of juvenile criminals.