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Study tracks youths tried in adult court

first_imgMiami-Dade youths tried as adults and given adult sentences are twice as likely to re-offend as similar youth who are sentenced to juvenile justice programs, according to a recently released study.“Ironically, the study comes at a time when the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice has proposed budget cuts that would prevent judges from sentencing youth who are tried as adults to the more effective juvenile programs,” according to a prepared statement from the office of 11th Circuit Public Defender Bennett H. Brummer.The study, produced by Craig A. Mason, Ph.D., formerly of the University of Miami (now with the University of Maine), found that over a one-year period, almost 90 percent of the youth sentenced to adult probation or boot camp re-offended or violated the terms of their sentences. In contrast, 40 percent of youth who received juvenile justice sanctions — mostly year-long juvenile residential programs or probation — re-offended or violated their sentences. When compared with youth given adult sanctions, the youth given juvenile justice sanctions had lower re-offense rates, even when they had similar delinquency histories and charges.“The study shows that when judges sentence youth to developmentally appropriate services and programs, they are less likely to reoffend than youth given cookie-cutter adult sentences,” Mason said.“We should do what we can to bring down youth re-offense rates. Funding solutions that are proven effective make sense, both in terms of saving taxpayer money and reducing the number of victims.”Data for the study was collected by Mason as part of an evaluation of the Juvenile Sentencing Advocacy Project, a program initially funded by the U.S. Justice Department and managed by the Miami-Dade County Public Defender’s Office.The JSAP collected, analyzed, and provided information that helped adult court judges make informed sentencing decisions. According to an evaluation of JSAP in the first year of the program, the number of youth receiving juvenile court sanctions increased 350 percent from 1998 to 1999.“The state saves taxpayer dollars and improves public safety when judges impose juvenile sentences rather than adult probation or boot camp. The research confirms that we know what works and what doesn’t. Eliminating sentences to juvenile commitment programs will not make our community safer. I hope that Florida’s policy-makers will now find the political will to do the right things and reject the department’s proposed cuts,” Brummer said, referring to DJJ’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2002-03 that would require that youth tried as adults could only receive adult sanctions.“Florida is first among the states in transferring youth to adult court,” said Patricia Puritz, director of the National Juvenile Defender Center.“Instead of denying transferred youth important rehabilitation opportunities, Florida should be trying to bring down re-offense rates by strengthening and funding effective juvenile programs.”A separate five-year study by the DJJ released January 8 called “Trends in Transfer of Juveniles to Adult Criminal Court” cite the JSAP study and agreed with its conclusion: “The researchers found that youth who receive sanctions and rehabilitation in Florida’s juvenile justice system have a lower rate of recidivism than their counterparts who are transferred to adult criminal court. The group reported that when the youth did recidivate, those transferred to the adult system committed more felony offenses.”For more information on the JSAP program or to download the study, visit www.pdmiami.com. If you have any questions, call Chief Assistant Public Defender Carlos Martinez at 305-545-1903 or e-mail Craig Mason, Ph.D., [email protected] Study tracks youths tried in adult court Study tracks youths tried in adult courtcenter_img February 15, 2002 Regular Newslast_img read more