Budget conference: SWEAT equity for Nassau, Clay Counties

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Resources for at-risk youth will be channeled through the Sheriff's Offices.

The House and Senate have aligned on a proposal to help at-risk youth in Nassau and Clay counties.

The Conference Committee on Criminal and Civil Justice is slotting $110,000 for the Nassau County Youth Alternative to Secured Detention (S. W. E. A. T.) program. The Clay County program will get $250,000 for its own initiative.

This youth intervention program meets the targeted needs of Clay and Nassau County youth by “providing effective diversion and intervention programs which include redirection of youth through community service, mentoring and academic assistance to prevent juvenile delinquency,” the requests assert.

“Program services will be provided to youth who are identified as at-risk of becoming involved in the juvenile justice system and are between the ages of six (6) and eighteen (18).”

The funds are non-recurring, but the hope is for funding to be renewed next year. The funding would allow the respective counties to fund positions for a program director, mentoring service provider and tutoring service provider.

The Sheriff’s offices will administer the community service events, and the expectation is mentoring and tutoring, along with supervised community service, will help 50 to 100 Nassau youth and 800 Clay County youth.

To that end, there are a number of measurable goals, including what  Nassau cites as “improvement with self-esteem, life skills, character development, professional skills, peer-pressure, personal development and leadership skills.”

Clay’s request cites “improved mental health, improved quality of education and protecting the general public from harm.”

Academic achievement and the prevention of truancy are expected outcomes of tutoring, with behavior improvement as a hedge against recidivism. Progression and participation are tracked in the SWEAT program, with monthly reports to ensure the initiative is on track.

Budget conference subcommittees will meet throughout the week to resolve differences in each area, even as these silos appear resolved.

When remaining issues reach an impasse, they will be “bumped” to the full budget conference committee.

Lawmakers must reach an agreement on a final spending plan by May 2 to meet the 72-hour “cooling off” period required by the state constitution before they can vote on the budget to avoid pushing the Regular Session past its scheduled May 5 end date.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


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