juvenile diversion

young man under arrest
Chris Yarzab via Flickr

The number of juvenile arrests in Northeast Florida has dropped by more than a quarter over the past five years.  A new report from the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice shows the lowest number of juvenile arrests in 40 years, statewide.

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.


Rhema Thompson

There’s something universally jarring about the sound of shackles. It’s slow and, while high-pitched, carries a timbre of gloom.

It’s especially unnerving when those shackles are chained to the feet and arms of a slight, young man, like the one who stood in front of an audience on a recent evening.

“At the end of the day, y’all are going home. I’m still locked up,” he told the group of young men sitting before him.

His words were quiet, but he had their full attention.

Publik15 / Flickr

The calls for juvenile justice reform in Florida are  growing, as advocates turn to research to prove that more robust juvenile diversion programs for first-time offenders can prevent kids from dropping out of school. 

The local interfaith coalition ICARE is one of the local advocates pushing diversion, not jail, for juvenile first-time offenders.

They say such an approach is especially needed in Duval County, where one in three high school kids don't make it to graduation.