Juvenile arrests in Florida hit a 46 year low due to progress
The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) is closing out another milestone year with several important accomplishments that further the agency’s mission of reducing juvenile delinquency and increasing public safety. DJJ put forth significant achievements to continue its work as a national leader in innovative approaches to juvenile justice.
“The accomplishments achieved this year by DJJ, our providers, our law enforcement partners, and community partners demonstrate our shared commitment to enhancing Florida’s juvenile justice system, said DJJ Secretary Eric Hall. “Through the leadership and dedication of Governor Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis, DJJ will continue to improve the services we provide to Florida’s youth at every level of the system to ensure stronger families and safer communities.”
Some important accomplishments include the following:
Juvenile Arrests Reach 46-year Low in Florida
Juvenile arrests continue to decline in Florida this past year, and are down 51 percent in the last five years, marking the lowest juvenile arrest levels in Florida in 46 years. Overall juvenile arrests statewide declined 30 percent with felony juvenile arrests decreasing by 22 percent while misdemeanor juvenile arrests have also declined by 32 percent.
DJJ Hosts Discussions Between Youth, Families, and Law Enforcement Partners
In support of Governor DeSantis’ priority of supporting the men and women in law enforcement, DJJ continues to host Bridging the G.A.A.P. (Gaining Appreciation by Adjusting Perspectives) discussions statewide. This year, DJJ hosted 48 G.A.A.P discussions statewide with a total of 17 law enforcement agencies represented and over 1,700 participants in total.
Through the use of innovative strategies, the Department has expanded the scope and reach of these discussions with the goal of building stronger relationships and awareness between youth and our valued law enforcement professionals. The discussions are designed to reduce juvenile arrests and rearrests, keep youth from moving deeper into the juvenile justice system, and promote the use of civil citation. Youth who participate in these discussions come from diverse youth organizations and DJJ prevention programs like the Pace Center for Girls, Boys and Girls Clubs, youth shelters, church youth groups, detention centers, alternative schools, and community programs.
DJJ, First Lady Casey DeSantis, and Partners Honor 2021 DJJ Youth Ambassadors on Youth Success Day
DJJ partnered with First Lady Casey DeSantis, the Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation, the Florida Juvenile Justice Association (FJJA), and community stakeholders to honor three youth as DJJ Youth Ambassadors during Youth Success Day. Youth Success Day is recognized every year by DJJ and its partners to celebrate the accomplishments and hard work of youth in the state of Florida. DJJ Youth Ambassadors are youth who have turned their lives around for the better after contact with the juvenile justice system or who have participated in prevention programs for children at risk of entering the system. These ambassadors will serve as role models for other at-risk kids throughout the state. More information about the 2021 DJJ Youth Ambassadors and their incredible stories of success can be found here.
FJJF Partners with Florida Prepaid College Program to Provide Higher Education Scholarships to DJJ Youth
The Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation (FJJF), the direct-support organization for the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), and the Florida Prepaid College Foundation have partnered together to provide $20,000 in higher education scholarships to juvenile justice-involved youth. These scholarships are a first of their kind for youth involved in DJJ programs and are being awarded through the Stanley Tate Project STARS (Scholarship Tuition for At-Risk Students) Program. The program focuses efforts on low-income students who are at a higher risk of dropping out of school and prepares them to attend and succeed in college. These scholarships will provide tuition assistance to youth within the juvenile justice system who have successfully completed their DJJ program.
Expanded Volunteerism in the Juvenile Justice System amongst Community Partners and Stakeholders
Volunteer services account for the engagement of thousands of individual volunteers annually who provide more than 11,000 hours of service to DJJ programs and facilities. Volunteers perform such activities as assisting with faith-based services, mentoring, tutoring, assisting with vocational programs, and counseling services. DJJ volunteers work closely with agency and provider staff and provide needed wrap-around services to youth in DJJ’s care. In addition, DJJ probation youth completed more than 150,000 hours of community service in their local communities.
DJJ and the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation Partner to Launch First of Its Kind Equine Program
This year, DJJ and the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF) launched a new equine therapy program at the Center for Success and Independence, a juvenile residential commitment program in Ocala. TRF provides for the safety and welfare of retired Thoroughbred racehorses through partnerships with state-level correctional facilities across the United States. With the launch of the equine therapy program at the Center for Success and Independence-Ocala, this is the first time ever TRF is bringing this program to a juvenile program. The launch of this juvenile program will afford residential youth the opportunity to receive therapeutic services and vocational training through interacting with and caring for horses in the TRF herd. One youth even received a commendation for his quick and potentially life-saving actions while participating in the program. Read more about this youth’s story here.
DJJ Honors 2021 Juvenile Justice Teacher of the Year
In keeping with Governor DeSantis’ priority of celebrating Florida’s teachers, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) was proud to award Vernon Simpson with the Juvenile Justice Teacher of the Year Award. The Juvenile Justice Teacher of the Year Award is presented to an outstanding educator whose teaching methods demonstrate innovative and creative instructional strategies and who promotes a positive school environment. Vernon Simpson is a carpentry teacher at the Juvenile Unit for Specialized Treatment (JUST) program, a mental health treatment program where youth develop essential skills and explore their creativity in a unique environment. To learn more about Mr. Simpson and the impact he’s had on his students at the JUST program, click here.