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Juveniles at risk

April 17, 2019
North Fort Myers Neighbor

To the editor:

Prosecutors around our state send hundreds of kids to the adult criminal justice system every year. In fact, Florida prosecutes more children for felonies than any other state.

Kids are housed in adult jails and prisons where they receive little to no education and are often held in solitary confinement. Compared to kids remaining in the juvenile system, children tried as adults are more likely to attempt suicide and are more likely to re-offend when they are released from prison. Prosecuting children as adults has long-term, harmful effects on our youth and our communities.

It's time for the Florida Legislature to limit adult prosecutions of children. If children are charged as adults, they should be housed in juvenile facilities while they await trial, so they have access to education and other rehabilitative services tailored to kids.

The Legislature should also create a due process hearing, to bring transparency and accountability to this practice. Most children charged as adults in Florida are transferred out of the juvenile system at the sole discretion of prosecutors through a process known as "direct file." Children have no way to contest that decision and judges have no way to review it. A due process hearing would allow a judge to look at circumstances surrounding each case to determine whether the child should return to the juvenile system.

The adult criminal justice system is no place for a child. I urge lawmakers to pass HB 575 and SB 876 this year.

Louis Eason

Fort Myers



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