Panel to study state juvenile justice system

10/29/07 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Monday | Listen to this entire show:

The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice has formed a Blueprint Commission to make recommendations to improve Florida’s Juvenile Justice system. The Commission is meeting today and tomorrow at the University Area Community Center in Tampa.

Former Lieutenant Gov. Frank Brogan is chair of the Department of Juvenile Justice's 25-member Blueprint Commission.

The Commission has already held public hearings in four cities across Florida. Brogan said that those hearings have brought out several concerns about the DJJ.

Florida has traditionally dealt with juvenile offenders, even those who are convicted of nonviolent misdemeanors, by taking a corrections approach such as placing juvenile offenders in institutions called kid prisons. But Brogan said it might be more effective to shift toward a rehabilitative approach.

The theme of today’s Blueprint Commission public hearings was transforming Florida’s approach from large institutional care to community-based residential models. One state that has successfully made that transformation is Missouri.

The commission heard testimony from Phyllis Becker, senior fellow with the Midwest Center for Non-Profit Leadership. Becker said the institutional model, where personnel were interested mainly in compliance by the juveniles was not as effective as the community-based approach in Missouri.

Dr. Bary Krisberg, president of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, testified by phone. Krisberg agreed that a community-based approach is more effective than large institutions.

Even though the initial costs might be higher for community-based services than large institutions, the long-term costs will be lower, according to DJJ Secretary Walter McNeil.

One of the commissioners, Dale Landry, is the chair of the Criminal and Juvenile Committee of the Florida Conference of the NAACP. He expressed concern that if the DJJ encouraged innovations by private groups that contract with the state, they do so within strict guidelines.

The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice’s Blueprint Commission is still taking public comment tonight until 7 p.m. at the University Area Community Center on North 22nd Ave in Tampa. The Commission meets again tomorrow in Tampa and on Nov. 6 and 7 in Pensacola.

Learn more:

Blueprint Commission

Florida Department of Juvenile Justice

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