The use of civil citations for troubled youth as an alternative to juvenile detention in Florida is slashing costs and giving kids a better chance of a turn-around, reports the New Service of Florida. Experts and advocates would like to see the practice become more widespread. Roughly 40 programs statewide offer civil citations, which seek to target the roots of delinquency through family counseling and substance abuse and mental health treatment.
A civil citation is offered in lieu of arrest only to kids who commit misdemeanors. They get one chance to avoid a criminal record that can affect their future educational, professional or military lives – what amounts to a lifelong punishment for an offense such as trespassing or fighting at school. “We don't want [youth] to go deeper into the criminal justice system, because it's detrimental to them and it's very expensive,” said Steve Casey, executive director of the Florida Sheriffs Association. Miami-Dade public defender Carlos Martinez, who has worked with civil citations for seven years, calls them “one of the most important innovations we've had in juvenile justice in the last decade” in his jurisdiction.