Civil citations, not arrests, demanded by faith groups in Pinellas

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A first-time arrest can follow a young person for their entire life, even if it’s for a non-serious misdemeanor.

One organization wants to change that, by requiring cops to offer “civil citations.”

A group called FAST gathered at Tropicana Field for their annual meeting.

It’s a congregation of people from all faiths who want changes in the way young people deal with the criminal justice system.

Samantha Hernandez stole an $8 necklace from a department store when she was 12.

It still haunts her a decade later.

“Going to college, I had to give explanations on what happened, why it’s still there,” she said.

The arrest also made finding a job difficult.

“I am a Certified Nursing Assistant and it took me a very long time to find the person who was understanding enough to take me in,” said Hernandez.

Front and center for this gathering were police chiefs and city leaders from Clearwater, St. Petersburg and Pinellas County.

Young offenders offered the chance for a civil citation are not let off scott free.

Judy McGinity’s son had to clean up graffiti he sprayed on a warehouse, pay the owner, and jump through other hoops. That’s when he was a child.

“After completing the program, he has no arrest record, has an incredibly successful job, which he would not have been able to have, had he had any kind of arrest record,” said McGinity.

FAST leaders said it works in Pinellas, now this group want civil citations everywhere.

“Every child deserves the opportunity to have a second chance,” said Hernandez.

A Senate bill would make it available to all children.

There is not a similar bill in the House.

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