Congress today passed the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018, which strengthens and reauthorizes the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974. Among the provisions aimed at protecting justice-involved youth, the legislation bans housing children in adult jails unless a judge determines in writing after a hearing that the interests of justice require it. States will have within three years to comply or risk losing access to federal funding for juvenile justice programs. Currently, Florida law does not comport with the provisions of the new law because it requires children prosecuted as adult to be housed in adult jails pending trial.
SPLC Action Fund, as part of the No Place for a Child coalition, plans to support a bill during the 2019 Florida Legislature that would bring Florida into compliance with the new federal law. The following statement is by Scott McCoy, senior policy counsel for SPLC Action Fund:
“Research has shown the traumatic effects of housing children in adult facilities; those youth are more likely to become victims of assault, be arrested again or die by suicide than their peers. Florida should follow the lead of our federal lawmakers, and pass legislation that would keep children in juvenile facilities, where they can receive counseling and education services tailored to their needs. Children do not belong in adult jails and prisons. The adult criminal justice system is no place for a child.”