Florida’s declining juvenile arrests and increasing civil citation rates are great signs of progress toward criminal justice reform. Over the past five years, juvenile arrests declined by 24 percent while civil citations rose by 33.3 percent.
While these trends are encouraging, the opposite can be said of Florida’s rate of involuntary psychiatric examinations of children that occurred under the Baker Act, a Florida law that allows police, doctors and judges to perform examinations on children who appear to have a mental illness and who pose a danger to themselves or others.
From 2010-15, the number of statewide Baker Act examinations grew at an alarming rate of 49.3 percent. This growth is even more concerning when compared to Florida’s child population growth, which is merely 5.53 percent. This data reveals that mental health is a growing challenge among the state’s youth and failing to account for it in our criminal justice reform dialogue carries massive harmful implications for juvenile justice in Florida.