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Florida Legislature Must Stop Letting Prosecutors Charge Children As Adults

Thursday 8th of August 2019 | North America, United States
Juvenile Justice Information Exchange
News

I sit at my desk wondering why they don’t get it. Why do our legislators continue to do nothing to help hurting children and hurting families?

Since 2009 more than 13,000 children have been prosecuted as adults in Florida. Florida prosecutes more children as adults for felonies than any other state and we give this incredibly powerful decision-making to the prosecutor, not a judge.

In 2017-18 there were 904 children who were sent to the adult criminal justice system. This was a slight decrease from the 1,128 children who were sent to the adult criminal justice system in 2016-17, according to the state Department of Juvenile Justice. On top of that, the data shows that of these children, more than three out of every four who were transferred to the adult system were either African American or Hispanic.

Our prosecutors charge more children as adults for felonies than anywhere else in the country. Judges can’t review or challenge these decisions. This process is called “direct file,” which means a child is taken from a juvenile center and placed into the adult system.

Once a prosecutor has charged a child as an adult, the judge must accept what the prosecutor decided. The prosecutor has immunity from wrongful prosecution, meaning nothing can happen to them for being overzealous in their job prosecuting a child as an adult who really needed counseling and support services offered in the juvenile system, not the adult system.

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