HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Hillsborough County has rolled out a new system designed to reduce recidivism rates among juvenile offenders.
The program utilizes civil citations for low-level offenses. If a teenager gets in trouble with the law for the first time, they must complete a course, have meetings with their parents and a counselor and if they continue to behave, their record stays clean. But if they find themselves in trouble with the law again, all bets are off.
“This is going to really help good kids who have made a mistake, stay out of the system and on the right path,” said Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren, the program’s mastermind.
The average cost of Warren’s program is $400, compared to your average case that could go to trial and cost thousands.
Warren instituted the civil citation program earlier this year. “It was time for us to take a really big step based on the success in other places,” he said.
One father, Kurt Tewksbury, has mixed feelings about the program. On one hand, he wishes the program was in place a long time ago, but on the other, he’s a skeptic.
“The system has failed me. Nothing is being done, you know, with the justice system. They just keep slapping him on the hand,” said Kurt, referring to his son Zachary.
According to Kurt, Zachary has been locked up a total of ten times in just two years. He says he used to have a good relationship with his son, but things began to change when Zachary started acting out in school. Kurt said his son got abusive. At one point, he even hit Kurt and on another occasion, he started a fire at a gas station.
Kurt doubts Warren’s program would have helped his son or others, for that matter.
“I don’t think it’s going to work. I really doubt. Unless you really want to,” Kurt said.
His son, Zachary remains at a juvenile detention center. Once he’s out, he’ll enroll in a residential program that lasts anywhere from six to nine months.
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