St. Pete City Council's Wengay Newton looks for ways to keep city kids out of jail

01/31/13 Janelle Irwin
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St. Pete city council member Wengay Newton is asking members of the community to help him brainstorm ways to keep the city’s kids out of jail. Newton speaking is hosting a community meeting Thursday night addressing the city’s juvenile arrest rate. That meeting will be at 7 p.m. at the County Job Corp Center located at 500 22nd Street South.

St.Pete city council member Wengay Newton is asking members of the community to help him

"Statewide Florida is arresting almost 60,000 juveniles every year and of that over 25,000 of those juveniles, 11 to 17 are charged with misdemeanors and Florida being the only state that relinquishes juvenile records. Those little misdemeanors the records that they're racking up come back to haunt them in their adult life, it never goes away. As it pertains to what happens to the plight of the juvenile and more locally here in St. Pete. The city of St. Pete spends 10 to $20,000 a month, every month based on the police department to the Pinellas county sheriff for juvenile booking services. That dollar amount represents 150 to 160 juveniles every month being arrested and booked. We, as ( )contribute about 1800 juveniles to the juvenile justice system annually. We definitely have a problem here. We need to try to meet this tonight I hope every one will come out we're going to have a discussion about how we're going to forumulate a plan to combat this and give the kids the opportunity to realize their full potential by not shackling them with records and backrounds so early in their life."

Do you have any solutions that you're proposing and what are those?

"We have some solutions. We're not just meeting tonight to have people come in and just complain about the situation. We're going to meet tonight and again next month with action items as we get ready to try to formulate some legislation to take up to Tallahassee to try to get these laws changed. These state attorneys ( ) have told me, they say 'Councilman, all I've got is the law. It's all I've got and as a state attorney I have to enforce the law.' He said now if you don't like the law you'll have to go up to Tallahassee and get it changed. So, I didn't like that answer but he's 100 per cent right. We have got to do what to make sure that we have are able to try to impact some change to make sure we give our young people the opportunity to reach their full potential. These are the critical thinkers, these are the ( ) age, the ones that's going to cure cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. I think to handicap them at that young age and kill all their aspirations and dreams. It also prohibits them from participating in the American dream of economic prosperity and even having a job. Because some of them won't even be employed with backrounds. For instance, I tried with all my heart to get a quarter million dollars for summer jobs. Well if these kids, the minors have a backround the need not apply. So, as you can see, we have some programs and stuff in place but the laws that we have in place is really handicapping a lot of them. Not all of them, but a great number of them."

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