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Florida Juvenile Justice Secretary Strives For Improvement

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Florida DJJ

Florida’s juvenile justice system has been at the forefront of discussions around the state lately, with a push to reform laws affecting residents under 18.

The issue received a lot of media attention when the  Dream Defenders decided to camp out at the state capitol in the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict.

Activists have protested zero-tolerance policies in schools, the use of civil citations and treatment of juveniles in detention facilities they say more harshly affect minority populations. Their goal: to reverse what's known as the "school-to-prison pipeline" for thousands of Florida kids.

The woman who heads up the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice met with the Dream Defenders recently, and says she's focused on improving the system for minors.

It's a plan called the Roadmap to System Excellence.

Secretary Wansley Walters of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, spoke with First Coast Connect about the initiative.

"We hope that the roadmap will help us build on the successes Florida has achieved," says Walters. She points out the numbers are trending positively.

Here's a snapshot of the progress according to DJJ:

  • Commitments to low and moderate risk facilities have dropped 62 %
  • First-time misdemeanor arrests have dropped 29 %
  • School-based arrests have dropped 28 %
  • Delinquency arrests have dropped 23 %
  • Admissions to secure detention have dropped 17 %

Florida Department of Juvenile Justice - Roadmap to System Excellence

Melissa Ross joined WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. During her career as a television and radio news anchor and reporter, Melissa has won four regional Emmys for news and feature reporting.