New juvenile system designed to keep Hillsborough Co. teens from a life of crime

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren announced a plan Thursday morning to draw juveniles out from their cycles of crime.

The program called the Juvenile Arrest Avoidance Program gives some teens a pass if they find themselves in trouble with the law.  First-time offenders and teens charged with certain misdemeanors won’t be arrested.  If they successfully complete the program, their record will be clean.

Warren called the current juvenile justice system dysfunctional, if not broken, and admits the old ways simply aren’t working since teens keep getting arrested over and over again.

The new program is designed to make sure that the first interaction with police will scare them straight and to hopefully decrease recidivism rates.

Warren believes the program will also put their resources into more violent crimes and as a result, it will keep the hardened criminals off of the streets while saving taxpayer dollars.

Speaking of money, the average cost to prosecute a teen is $5,000 and then $55,000 a year to keep them locked up. Warren’s program only charges a $400 enrollment fee.

But what about teens who find themselves in trouble again who are already in the program? Warren said it would be up to the officer’s discretion and that all teens would be tracked in their database system.

“If you’re a young person and you’ve got an arrest record, I mean, come on, you’re going to be stuck washing cars and flipping burgers, and not that there’s anything wrong with washing cars and flipping burgers, but I think the citizens and the youth of Hillsborough County can do better than that,” said Chief Judge Ron Ficcarotta of the 13th Judicial Circuit.

Hillsborough County Public Defender Julie Holt agrees. “Getting into the criminal justice system is easy,” she told News Channel 8. “Getting out of the criminal justice system is very hard.”

Other agencies who will take part in the civil citation program include the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, the Tampa Police Department, the Public Defender’s Office, the Administrative Office of the Courts, the Clerk of the Court, the Agency for Community Treatment Services, Inc., the Plant City Police Department, the Tampa International Airport Police Department, the Temple Terrace Police Department, and the University of South Florida Police Department.

The program goes into effect August 1, 2017.

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