A new report issued Monday urges state lawmakers in Florida to expand initiatives in community-based treatment for wayward youth, saying it is less expensive and results in better outcomes than going through the incarceration route.
“Florida is spending tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to run state and county youth detention centers, while evidence shows that locking up Florida youth for non-serious or non-violent offenses does little to improve public safety,” said Joe Pennisi, executive director of the Florida Policy Institute. “These young people are better served in treatment facilities that are within their communities, where they can receive the assistance they need to become healthy, productive members of society.”
Among the findings in the report, titled, “Community-Based Treatment More Effective, Less Expensive than Incarceration for Youth Offenders, include:
- Florida’s Black youth are nearly twice as likely as white youth to be incarcerated, and that number continues to grow
- The state spent $82.5 million in 2014 to run its 24 state and county youth detention centers
- Approximately 35 to 67 percent of incarcerated Florida youth will be rearrested within a year of being released for committing a new misdemeanor or felony crime
- Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care, an evidence-based treatment model geared toward high-risk youth with behavioral problems, realizes a return of $14 for every extra dollar spent on treatment
- More than 80 percent of youth in alternative incarceration programs remain arrest free
The report also calls for closing youth prison facilities and institutions throughout the state, with the savings to go into “alternative-based, effective and rigorous community-based programs.”
The report comes as the Florida Legislature begins debating several issues regarding youths caught up in the state’s criminal justice system, including Miami Republican Anitere Flores’ bill (SB 196) that would mandate law enforcement officers to offer a civil citation for youths admitting to one of 11 separate misdemeanors.
“The reason why I find this bill to be very important is that it brings uniformity to the Civil Citation Program,” Flores said during a Senate hearing last month, “so that ability to get a second chance doesn’t depend on where you live or what the color of your skin is, and that it just be something that in the state of Florida we prioritize for all members of our state.”