Sen. Randolph Bracy sees a new path to setting a minimum age for criminal arrests in Florida with an amendment he intends to offer for the Senate’s criminal justice reform bill Tuesday, forbidding arrests of juveniles under the age of 10 except in serious cases such as violent crimes.
Bracy has been pushing SB 578 since some high-profile arrests of very young children in schools, notably of 6-year-old Kaia Rolle of Orlando, who was arrested in September for being disruptive in school. That bill has gone nowhere though. So Bracy has been negotiating with key Senate leadership, notably Republican Sens. Jeff Brandes, David Simmons, and Keith Perry for another path to shielding young children from arrests since bodycam video released last week brought international attention to Kaia’s arrest and the issue.
Bracy said he has negotiated with leadership for an amendment that would set a minimum age of 10 for arrests of juveniles in most cases. His SB 578 had proposed a minimum age of 12.
“Over the course of the Legislative Session and our committee-week process I have worked with other Senators tirelessly to get this bill heard. At this time we have come to a compromise. We have limited it to age 10, where 10 years old and younger would be prohibited from being arrested with the exception of forcible felonies … ,” Bracy said.
“That amendment to our criminal justice package bill in the Senate will be amended tomorrow and that will put us in position to negotiate with the House on this provision but also our entire criminal justice package. In the last two weeks I think we are in good position hopefully to pass our amendment.”
Bracy laid out his plan Monday in Orlando, alongside Meralyn Kirkland, Kaia’s grandmother.
Bracy intends to amend the provision to Brandes’ SB 1308, a comprehensive criminal justice reform bill. It will be heard Tuesday in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Perry chairs the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, where it goes next. Simmons chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Simmons said he expects the minimum age provision will be a conference issue between the Senate and House criminal justice reform bills.
Kirkland said her granddaughter has been suffering nightmares and fear. She said her granddaughter has been receiving twice-weekly therapy, and her therapist said she has PTSD at the age of 6. She expressed strong gratitude for Bracy’s efforts, and to other Senators supporting the measure.
“It’s been a very difficult road for us, but has become a passion of mine to see this bill passed, and I am so happy,” Kirkland said.
She said she wanted to see the minimum age set at 12, as SB 578 would have done, yet called the latest provision “a starting point.”
Bracy said the 10-year-old minimum is in line with many other states’ laws, and he agreed to that age in talks with other Senators.