Gov. Rick Scott trumpeted a 42-year low in juvenile arrests Thursday in an attempt to secure a double-digit pay hike for youth correctional workers.
Governor Scott said, “Our state has made significant strides in reforming our juvenile justice system and I am proud to announce today that juvenile arrests have dropped to a historic 42-year low. Today’s announcement would not be possible without Florida’s juvenile detention and probation officers, who work each day to redirect our youth to a successful path. I will be working with the legislature during the upcoming session to pass a 10 percent pay raise for juvenile detention and juvenile probation officers so we can reward them for their critical work.”
Orange and Hillsborough Counties paced the field, with 15 percent and 14 percent dips in youth arrests year over year.
But some categories — felony drug arrests, weapon/firearm intake, fraud/forgery/counterfeiting, felony vandalism, stolen property, escape intake, obstruction of justice, and “other” felonies — saw statewide year over year increases.
Despite those categorical complications of narrative, Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Christina Daly offered a buoyant note.
“More than six years ago, DJJ committed to improve Florida’s juvenile justice system through innovative and aggressive reforms. The continued decline in juvenile arrests year after year demonstrates our reform efforts are working,” Daly said.
“We will continue to work with law enforcement and our community partners to keep even more kids out of the juvenile justice system, provide the very best services for those that do come into our system, and work hard to help steer every youth down the right path,” Daly added.
Other states, ranging from Alabama to California, have seen decreases in youth crime in recent years — which raises questions as to whether “innovative and aggressive reforms” are actually responsible for the statistical decrease.
Amanda Slama, deputy communications director for the DJJ, said that Florida is benefiting from increased use of civil citations and other diversion tactics, which “keep kids out of the system.”
Regarding areas with increase statewide, such as those enumerated above, they signify that there still is “work to do,” per Slama.
That said, even as state legislators grumble over Scott’s big-spending budget, it will be hard for any of them to make the case that youth correctional workers don’t deserve raises.