Legislation sponsored by state Senator Bobby Powell, (D-Riviera Beach), that would dramatically overhaul the way children are fast tracked into the adult prison system received its first green light on Monday, and is poised for its next committee stop.
SB 192 would bring greater transparency into the criminal justice system by requiring prosecutors to document their decisions to prosecute children as adults, a process known as “direct file.” Direct filing children as adults has been an intense topic in the state of Florida as studies such as the 2015 Marshall Project have shown that Florida direct files more children than any other state. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also shown that children prosecuted as adults are 34 percent more likely to recidivate.
“In the past, the direct filing of children as adults in the courts was the fallback position by officials who found it easier to dehumanize kids than work to solve the problems driving the behavior,” said Powell. “This bill reflects a new attitude that kids aren’t disposable, that warehousing them in adult prisons is not a solution, and that redemption and rebirth are possible.”
The bill would create a uniform system throughout the state of Florida based on the child’s age at the time of the crime and on the type of offense committed. Additionally, SB 192 lists criteria that must be used when state attorneys utilize their discretion to prosecute youth as adults, prevents youth who are prosecuted as adults from losing their future civil rights, and eliminates possession of drugs among other non-violent offenses as justification to direct file.
Senator Powell’s measure, which passed on a 5 to 3 vote out of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Monday, now awaits a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice, its second of three scheduled Senate committee stops.