Christian Minor: Second chances create futures for our youth

Second Chance written on rural road
"Affording the youth a second chance by diverting them from the justice system."

Juvenile arrests in Florida are at a historic 45-year low. Down from 69,864 in FY 2015-2016 to 45,366 in FY 2019-2020 according to the most recent delinquency report published by the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), there are over 24,000 fewer kids going deeper into the justice system.

The argument can be made that this is a trend that has been aided by shutdowns amid the COVID-19 pandemic; however, the fact remains that juvenile arrests statewide declined 17% and felony juvenile arrests also declined 16%.

Why the downward trend?

Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice is recognized as a nationwide leader which has worked to transform their system through the implementation of comprehensive, data-driven reforms.

Working in collaboration with law enforcement, community-based stakeholders, and contracted partners, it’s seen an increased emphasis on prevention, intervention, and diversionary mechanisms, which Gov. Ron DeSantis credits “keep our young people from going down the wrong path.” Such intervention and diversionary mechanisms come in the form of juvenile civil citations and post-arrest diversionary programs.

Utilized at the discretion of law enforcement or a state prosecutor, a child can be provided with a civil citation (pre-arrest) or referred by a prosecutor to a post-arrest diversionary program; all of which play a role in affording the youth a second chance by diverting them from the justice system.

With all good measures, there are unintended consequences.

Currently, in Florida Statute, once a child completes a post-arrest diversionary program for a misdemeanor offense, their record can be expunged free of charge. The point being: kids make stupid mistakes as the frontal cortex of their brain is still developing well into their mid-20’s. Similarly, a state prosecutor has the discretion to refer a child to a post-arrest diversionary program for a felony offense.

Often times, it is the case that the line of delineation between being charged with a felony as opposed to a misdemeanor, is very thin.

The problem, however, is the completion of such programming for a felony offense does not allow for diversion expunction under current law.

According to Florida Statutes Section 943.0515(1)(b)2, a child can petition to have their record expunged five years after completing a post-arrest diversionary program with no additional offenses it automatically comes off at the age of 21.

What does this mean?

When someone completes a diversionary program, there is a “dismissal” of those charges for the said offense.

For our kids completing these programs for felony offenses, the proverbial scarlet letter still remains. This means, if a 14-year-old completes a program for a felony, the soonest it can be expunged from their record is the age of 19. This impacts the child’s ability to apply to college, student loans, housing, jobs, the military, etc.

Not only are we stifling a child’s ability and opportunity to pursue all those avenues which would lead to them becoming a productive taxpaying member of society, but we are also telling them that their second chance was not truly one.

SB 274 filed by Sen. Keith Perry (R-District 8) and HB 93, its House companion filed by Rep. David Smith (R-District 28), seek to remedy this problem by allowing the expunction process for those kids completing post-arrest diversionary programs for felony offenses to function like that of the misdemeanor process. It would open it up for 21,000 kids in Florida to qualify for such expunction.

This measure has been met with bipartisan support on both sides of the aisle, flying unanimously through its committee stops in both the House and Senate with no objection.

As Rep. Smith closed testimony during the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Subcommittee, he remarked, “this is the right thing to do for these youthful offenders.”

He is indeed correct; such second chances create futures for our children and allow them the opportunity to lead a life of success.


Christian Minor is executive director of the Florida Juvenile Justice Association.

Guest Author


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704