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September 27th, 2016

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Andrew Warren Calls for Reform and Fairness in Juvenile Justice in State Attorney Race

Tampa, FL – On Tuesday, Andrew Warren released a new proposal aimed at improving juvenile justice in Hillsborough County by reducing the frequency with which the State Attorney’s Office charges juveniles as adults. 

“Our juvenile justice system here in Hillsborough is broken,” Warren said.  “We need to implement intelligent juvenile reforms by using best practices that have proven to reduce crime and recidivism.”

Warren’s proposal is another example of a common-sense reform that other major cities have used effectively to modernize and improve their criminal justice systems.  “We need to do a better job steering juvenile, non-violent offenders away from the downward spiral of the criminal justice system,” Warren said.  “We should be tough on serious juvenile offenders and always hold people accountable for their actions.  But treating kids who commit minor offenses like adult criminals only furthers the revolving door criminal justice system.  And it makes our neighborhoods less safe.”

Following his recent call to expand the use of civil citations, Warren proposes to increase the use of specialized juvenile courts and supporting school discipline initiatives rather than furthering the school to prison pipeline.  He also advocates increasing civil citations for juveniles and utilizing other community programs that operate outside the traditional criminal justice system.  Most importantly, Warren said he would reduce the percentage of cases in which juveniles are “direct filed,” meaning prosecutors elect to charge them as adults. 

Independent studies from both conservative and progressive think tanks have found that charging juveniles as adults increases crime, reduces public safety, and increases recidivism.[1]  In recent years, however, Hillsborough County has had one of the highest rates of direct filing in Florida and leads the state in the number of juveniles incarcerated in adult prisons.[2]

As State Attorney, Warren pledged to change that.  “Charging kids as adults should be reserved for the most serious, violent, and chronic offenders,” Warren explained.  “This is juvenile justice 101.”

Data from the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice shows that most direct files are for non-violent felony offenses, such as property and drug crimes, or for misdemeanors.  Moreover, the differences in the direct file rate between different State Attorneys’ Offices does not depend on the seriousness of the crime.[3]  “The fact is that juveniles in Hillsborough are not committing worse crimes than kids in the rest of the state,” Warren said.  “We are just treating them worse.”

There have also been significant racial disparities in direct filings by the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office.  For example, a 2014 Human Rights Watch report on juvenile justice found that from 2008 to 2013, Hillsborough had the highest racial disparity in Florida for direct filed drug felonies.  During that period, the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office charged over 30% of black youths as adults versus less than 9% of white youths.[4]  “We can have an intelligent discussion about when juveniles should be charged as adults,” Warren said.  “But there is no room for discussion when there is such a massive racial disparity.  It needs to stop.”

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[1]No Place For a Child,” James Madison Institute, February 2016

[2]Branded for Life,” Human Rights Watch, 2014 at p. 45-46;

[3] Human Rights Watch at 46.

[4] Human Rights Watch at 31.


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