Cole Pepper

Juvenile Diversion

Every year, police arrest more than 2,000 juveniles in Duval County. Nearly half are under the age of 15.

Some are arrested for serious offensives but many get in trouble due to bad influences and immaturity, and this contact with the criminal justice system can affect their lives for years afterwards.

This has led to a strong focus in recent  years on juvenile diversion programs to give them a chance to clean their record. In Duval County, four of these programs serve more than 1,200 children each year.

Tess Duvall, education, children and families reporter for the Florida Times-Union, has been taking an in-depth look into these program and their effectiveness for a series of articles running in the paper this week. She joins us to discuss them.

  Tears Of Abraham

The first Civil War was the bloodiest conflict in American history, but the second civil war is worse.

That’s the premise behind Tears of Abraham, a new novel by Jacksonville author Sean Smith. 

The book - which will be released Tuesday - tells the story of the next American Civil War through the eyes of heroes, villains, and innocents. And in today’s increasingly polarized environment, the author says it's not as impossible as it seems. 

Sean Smith joins us to discuss his new novel.

  Violence at Trump Rallies

Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump this weekend responded to criticism of the violence that has broken out between supporters and protestors at several of his recent rallies. Trump denied any responsibility for those acts.

We discuss this and Donald Trump's comments about Muslim and immigrants with Dr. Parvez Ahmed, UNF professor of finance and frequent commentator on the Muslim experience in Amerca.

Wounded Warrior Project

  The board of Jacksonville-based Wounded Warrior Project has asked independent advisors to review the charity’s finances following claims in national media of bloated salaries and over-the-top events.

Both CBS News and the New York Times in January released reports critical of the Jacksonville-based charity Wounded Warrior Project.

They spoke with current and former employees who allege the charity funds lavish company retreats, expensive travel, and spends too much money on its image instead of on veterans.

CEO Stephen Nardizzi says that investments in fund-raising, and marketing are commonly used by for-profit corporations.

We discuss the latest with Florida Times-Union reporter David Bauerlein, whose recent investigation into Wound Warrior Project's fundraising and spending appeared in this Sunday's edition of the newspaper.

A panel discussion titled “Peace in the Middle East: Inspiring Voices and Stories” took place Sunday at UNF.

The event, moderated by WJCT's Melissa Ross, explored the conflict between Israel and Palestine, and how faith communities how could help to resolve it.

First Coast Connect fill-in host Jessica Palombo continues that conversation with some of the nationally recognized faith leaders who took part in the event: Rabbi Donniel Hartman, president of the New York and Jerusalem based Shalom Hartman Institute; Imam Abduallah Antepli, chief representative of Muslim affairs and former chaplain at Duke University; and the Reverend Molly Marshall, president and professor of theology and spiritual formation at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas.

  Jacksonville City Councilman Tommy Hazouri announced Saturday that he will suspend his push to adopt local discrimination protections for the LGBT community.

Hazouri is withdrawing his bill that would amend the city’s human rights ordinance to protect those citizens from discrimination in jobs, housing and public accommodations. The move means this divisive local issue will be put on the back burner, at least for now, leaving Jacksonville one of the largest major cities that still lacks legal discrimination protection for the LGBT community.

The HRO has been controversial in large part because opponents have raised religious objections to the legislation.

We’ve also seen the debate over rights vs. religious liberty at the national level.

In 2014, the Supreme Court ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. recognized a for-profit corporation's claim of religious belief. Following this ruling many states, including Florida, have since proposed expanding state religious freedom laws to include for-profit corporations.

We speak with Toni Van Pelt is co-founder, president and Congressional lobbyist for the Institute for Science and Human Values. She’ll be speaking about the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act” and what she calls its its dangers to secular society and government at an event presented by the First Coast Freethought Society.

Lindsey Kilbride / WJCT News


A chilly February day in Jacksonville is even colder inside the Veterans Memorial Arena downtown because its floor is covered in ice.

The National curling championship has been taking place in Jacksonville all week. On Wednesday, WJCT sports analyst Cole Pepper took a first-hand look at the Olympic sport.


As politicians and pastors speak out about violent crime in Jacksonville, mourners laid to rest the 13th homicide victim of the year Saturday.

22-month-old Aiden Michael McClendon was shot by a stray bullet January 29 as he sat inside a parked car. Police are investigating the possibly gang-related shooting.

Jacksonville has been Florida’s murder capital on and off for more than a decade now. As Mayor Lenny Curry works to reinvigorate the Jacksonville Journey anti-crime initiative, we examine the city's murder rate and root causes of crime in Jacksonville. Dr. Michael Hallet, professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of North Florida, joins us.

The local activist group Families of Slain Children held a conference Monday about the ongoing issue of gun violence in Jacksonville following the shooting death of a 22-month-old boy on the city's Eastside.

There’s a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest in the murder of Aiden Michael McClendon.

We speak with Families of Slain Children founder and CEO Beverly McClain.

It's a national coalition that first formed in 2010 as a response to the Supreme Court's Cititzens United decision establishing corporate personhood.

Move to Amend is a grassroots effort with the message that money is not speech.

So far the coalition has succeeded in passing resolutions in 16 states calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the effect of Citizens United.

David Cobb, Outreach Director for Move to Amend, will be speaking at UNF Monday night. He joins us to discuss the group's efforts.

 The economy and jobs are so strong as 2016 begins that the Federal Reserve recently raised interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade. However, paychecks and the stock market are still flat. We discuss what could be expected from economy in the new year with economists Andres Gallo, of the University of North Florida, and Dr. Hassan Pordeli, of Jacksonville University.

As presidential candidates gather this week for the final GOP debate, we discuss at the latest in the 2016 race, as well as recent controversial comments about Muslim made by Donald Trump. UNF professors Matt Corrigan and Parvez Ahmed join us.

Three years ago, Reverend R.L. Gundy of Mt. Sinai Baptist Church was a vocal opponent of updating Jacksonville’s anti-discrimination law to cover lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. 

But now, Gundy has changed his mind, saying it's time to "move the city forward." And he has joined a coalition of about 50 local faith leaders in support of updating the human rights ordinance.

We speak with Reverend R.L. Gundy about his change of position.

November 23 marks the third anniversary of the shooting of Jacksonville teen Jordan Davis. Davis was killed on Black Friday, 2012, after a gas station altercation with Michael Dunn over loud music.

Davis was an African-American teen. Dunn, who is white, is currently serving a life sentence in the killing. However, he controversially was tried twice for the murder, with a jury deadlocking on a first-degree murder charge the first time around.

HBO is marking the anniversary tonight as the cable channel debuts the new documentary "3 ½ Minutes, 10 Bullets," which details Davis' death and Dunn's trials.

Dr. JeffriAnne Wilder, UNF race expert and  associate professor of sociology, joins us to discuss the impact these events had on the national conversation surrounding race and justice.

There's only one NFL team in Jacksonville, but two ways to say their name. Is it "jag-wahrs" or "jag-wires"?