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Time to reduce the number of children in Florida’s adult criminal justice system

In a commentary published in today’s Tampa Tribune, the head of the SPLC’s Florida office argues in favor of pending legislation that would greatly reduce the number of the state’s children pushed into adult courts, a category in which Florida leads the nation.

This week, Florida lawmakers will consider legislation aimed at reducing the number of children tried in the adult criminal justice system – more than 10,000 over the last five years, mostly for nonviolent offenses. 

Florida leads the nation in pushing children into adult courts.

More than 98 percent of them are sent there by prosecutors with no hearing, no due process and no oversight or input from a judge.

It’s because of Florida’s draconian “direct file” statute, which grants prosecutors unfettered discretion to remove children from the juvenile system, which is designed to give them the education and rehabilitation services they need.

This system results in gross inequities as this prosecutorial power is used differently across the state. Throughout Florida, children of color are far more likely to be tried as adults than white children.  

Tania Galloni, managing attorney for the SPLC’s Florida office, recently explained why reform is needed in a column published by The Tampa Tribune.

Read more here.