Contact: Jon Peck
Florida Smart Justice Alliance Unveils Historic Agreement for Adult Civil Citations
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With the unified support of law enforcement, prosecutors, public defenders and the judicial system, the Florida Smart Justice Alliance today unveiled a historic agreement introducing the cost-saving concept of Adult Civil Citations to Florida. The initiative carries potentially huge financial benefits and enhanced public safety, all without any additional cost to the taxpayers.
Under a first-of-its-kind project to begin in early December in Leon County and soon after that in other counties, law enforcement officers will be given a new alternative to arrest with the discretion to issue Adult Civil Citations to first-time non-violent misdemeanor offenders, to steer them toward treatment of underlying problems rather than arrest, jail and a life-long criminal record. A similar successful model – Juvenile Civil Citations – dealing with non-violent, first-time juvenile offenders has been in place statewide for almost two decades and has become a national model of success, contributing to a dramatic reduction in juvenile justice referrals in Florida.
“The Adult Civil Citation concept is just the kind of new thinking Florida needs,” said Mark Flynn, President and CEO of the Florida Smart Justice Alliance. “This concept meets the Alliance’s two goals – protecting the public but also expending our hard-earned tax dollars in a more efficient manner to produce the outcomes we expect: less recidivism. This has the potential to rewrite the operation of Florida’s criminal justice system as we work to solve people’s problems so they don’t create new crime victims.”
Through local agreements, officers will be given the flexibility to determine when certain alcohol, drug and other non-violent offenders would be better served by receiving an adult civil citation rather than being arrested for things like public intoxication, petty theft, disorderly conduct, trespass and the like. Qualifying offenders will be required to perform community service and undergo treatment for any conditions that contributed to their offense, and they – rather than the taxpayers – will pay all costs. But the process can spare them a criminal record, eliminating a major barrier to future employment, education, military service and other opportunities to build a law-abiding life.
“We often recognize that there’s an underlying cause behind a person’s first-time criminal behavior, and we would just as soon see it treated correctly so we don’t have to deal with the person again,” said Tallahassee Police Chief Dennis Jones. “Adult Civil Citations will advance our department’s commitment to public safety while allowing us to use common sense on the street, and any time an officer has discretion it’s a good thing.”
The Adult Civil Citation project was spearheaded by Tom Olk, executive director of DISC Village, Inc., who said it is embraced by criminal justice advocates because diverting low-level offenders frees up law enforcement and judicial resources to deal with more serious crimes. Olk helped develop Florida’s juvenile civil citation program in conjunction with Wansley Walters, who was then director of juvenile services for Miami-Dade County and is now secretary of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.
“Some people who draw the attention of law enforcement on the first occasion don’t truly need to be arrested – with an appropriate assessment and appropriate services we can help them can get their lives back on track. It will also help eliminate the problem of people being arrested because of underlying issues that cause their misguided behavior. Best of all, the offender pays the cost,” Olk said. “The civil citation process ensures that they pay for their actions, but without the life-altering stigma of a criminal arrest record.”
Under the program, law enforcement officers will have the discretion to issue a civil citation rather than make an arrest in cases where the offense does not involve violence and the offender has no previous civil citations. The offender would be required to:
Undergo an assessment within 72 hours
Perform a minimum of 25 hours of community service
Undergo treatment for any underlying issues that contributed to the incident, such as substance abuse counseling, anger management classes, and interventions that address retail theft and gambling
Pay all costs of the program
Face arrest for failing to meet the conditions of the program.
“A minor stupid act shouldn’t automatically ruin a person’s life, whether it’s the result of youthful indiscretion or a lifetime of hard luck,” said Sheriff Campbell, who supported juvenile civil citations from their inception. “Everyone who breaks the law must pay a price, and the civil citation process assures that – but with a smarter, cost-effective approach where the penalty fits the crime without wrecking a life.”
“The goal here is to make sure we have the resources to come down hard on the criminals who really deserve it,” added State Attorney Meggs, who was an early backer of Juvenile Civil Citations. “This approach makes so much sense, because it penalizes minor offenders while letting us focus on prosecuting the criminals who are the greater threat to our community.”
According to the Department of Juvenile Justice, in 2009-2010 approximately 7,000 youth across the state went through the juvenile civil citation process, with a recidivism rate of only 7 percent – just one out of 14 juveniles. A January 2011 report by the Associated Industries of Florida Foundation found that the success of juvenile diversion in Leon and Miami-Dade counties suggested that the number of juveniles processed through the system could be reduced by 40 percent through diversion. At the dramatically lower costs of diversion, the alternative would save Florida taxpayers almost $140 million if implemented statewide.
Existing rules adopted by the Florida Supreme Court provide the authority for the adult civil citation program, but without the involvement of the Second Judicial Circuit the initiative could not work, he said.
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About the Florida Smart Justice Alliance
The Florida Smart Justice Alliance is a coalition of organizations committed to changes in Florida’s criminal justice and corrections system designed to make Florida’s communities safer, save the taxpayers money and hold offenders accountable while providing the tools for them to live law-abiding lives. The Alliance works to forge consensus among the broad range of affected parties – including law enforcement, prosecutors and public defenders, the judiciary, state government, victim rights groups, service providers and the business community.
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS IN SUPPORT OF ADULT CIVIL CITATIONS
Wansley Walters, secretary of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice: “Civil Citation has proven its value and effectiveness beyond doubt in Florida’s juvenile system. It has protected the futures of thousands of children and allowed us to use our resources more effectively. I am confident it will prove just as beneficial for adults and commend the Florida Smart Justice Alliance for advocating this forward-thinking approach.”
Barney Bishop III, Vice Chair of the Center for Smart Justice at Florida TaxWatch:
“Just like the extremely successful Juvenile Civil Citation process, this will continue to ensure public safety while at the same time equipping law enforcement with a new yet familiar tool they can now be used at their discretion to divert low-level misdemeanor offenders from their first entry into the criminal justice system. If this is half as successful as it has been with juveniles, we will fundamentally alter the future jail population of the state and save taxpayer dollars in the process.”
Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell: “We in law enforcement appreciate this new tool in our toolbox so that when it’s appropriate, we can divert first-time offenders from going to jail. Adult Civil Citations is a concept that we embrace because we understand that people sometimes act out, and this will allow deputies to give a one-time pass if they feel it’s warranted. This initiative has the potential to help lower arrests for minor offenses and keep our local jail population in check. Less crime provides a safer environment for our citizens. DISC Village has been a strong partner with law enforcement for decades, and we look forward to continuing that successful relationship through this Adult Civil Citation initiative.
State Attorney Willie Meggs: “Seventeen years ago, Tom Olk came to us with the idea of Juvenile Civil Citations and we embraced it because it was a progressive idea that protected the public yet saved young lives from being ruined permanently. As a result we have diverted thousands of Leon County youth. Expanding this excellent idea to adults will continue to improve our justice system and hopefully prevent future crime victims. I support Smart Justice because it allows common sense and compassion yet still looks at the bottom line fiscally. Adults who receive civil citations will pay out of their own pocket for this, so the cost to taxpayers will be nil.”
Public Defender Nancy Daniels: “This is what the Florida justice system should be all about. Many youths and adults make a mistake, a one-time occurrence. A civil citation, whether it is designed for a youth or an adult, has the ability to change a life for the better by keeping the person out of our criminal justice system. In the vast majority of Juvenile Civil Citations issued here in Tallahassee, we have seen a significant benefit. A youth who enters the juvenile justice system has a 50 percent chance of going to prison in the future, but we have broken that cycle and the payoff has been tremendous.”
Tallahassee Police Chief Dennis Jones: “My officers appreciate this diversion tool and we will use it where appropriate. We are quite familiar with the Civil Citation concept since we have utilized it with juveniles over the past years, and we believe this will be helpful in the right circumstances for adults as well. If we can make our community safer and be smarter with the outcomes, then this can be a real success.”
H. Steven Hammond, Executive Director of Florida TaxWatch’s Center for Smart Justice: “The data on Juvenile Civil Citations has been extraordinarily insightful in helping us to document the success of this concept, which started right here in Florida. We are excited to see this next iteration for adults so that first-time offenders will have a chance to be diverted if law enforcement so chooses. What’s most exciting is the potential to rapidly expand this statewide. The service network that Tom Olk has put together represents some of the best providers who have had a longtime relationship with law enforcement and the courts in their respective communities. This portends well for the future.”
Mark Fontaine, Executive Director of the Florida Alcohol & Drug Abuse Association: “An essential component of efficient government is the wise use of taxpayers resources. The Adult Civil Citation program accomplishes this goal – law enforcement and court resources are better targeted to serious offenders, and those who commit minor offenses are held accountable without a permanent record and limits on life’s opportunities.”
Nick Maddox, Vice Chair of the Leon County Board of County Commissioners: “This is exactly what we are looking to do at the local level. So many in our community do something stupid one time, yet they have to pay the consequences. This innovative idea has the capability to change the equation by making us understand that after an assessment, we can help these people overcome their issues and become productive citizens for the rest of their lives. In most cases, this can prove to be their only encounter with law enforcement, and that works to make our communities safer.
State Senator Bill Montford: “I’ve known Tom and DISC Village since I was a school principal. Juvenile Civil Citations have been a boon to our education system because they help us keep track of truants. Now Adult Civil Citations can work for adults who have a first-time encounter with law enforcement. If the officer decides to use it as a diversionary tool, we may keep someone from having a red mark against them – an arrest record – for the rest of their lives. This has great significance for our community and the state.”
State Representative Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda: “I’m happy to hear about the expansion of civil citations to adults. I know it has worked well around Florida at the local level, and this expansion to adults who commit first-time non-violent misdemeanors will provide law enforcement with the diversionary tools they need.”Tweet