Tachana Joseph-Marc
July 25, 2021

Guest Column: Another missed opportunity for meaningful juvenile justice reform in Florida [The Florida Times-Union Jacksonville]

This post was last updated on September 29, 2021. As new policies are announced, FPI will update this page.

As Florida’s response to COVID-19 takes front and center, concern grows for low-income families who struggle to take precautions against the spread of the virus. Although Congress has passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to address, at least in part,  the public health crisis and economic fallout from COVID-19, many barriers continue to keep struggling families from accessing the assistance they need during the pandemic. As Florida initiates policies implementing the Act and addressing other barriers to the safety net, FPI will update this form. When available, hyperlinks are provided to agency documents or statements that provide greater detail  about the new policy.

On March 22, 2020, FPI and 44 other organizations sent a letter to Governor DeSantis, leadership in the Legislature and agency heads to urge action on 47 specific policy changes to reduce unnecessary barriers for Florida’s safety net programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. See the letter here.

Tachana Joseph-Marc writes:

"Despite bipartisan support in the Legislature, Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed two bills, SB 274 and SB 166, that would’ve fostered much-needed changes to Florida’s juvenile justice system. SB 274 aimed to expunge the records of justice-involved youth who have completed a diversion program for any offense, and SB 166 would’ve ensured that those expunctions are exempt from public records and only available for specified purposes to some criminal justice agencies. The governor’s veto denies thousands of youths the opportunity to move forward without a label that can potentially taint the quality of their lives — from education to employment — for years, if not their whole lives.

The bills would not have compromised public safety because their provisions wouldn’t have covered every child with a record. Expunction would only occur for those with a non-arrest record due to their participation and completion of a diversion program, which is an alternative to entering or continuing in the formal juvenile justice system. Diversion programs such as teen courts and peer mentoring are operated by the judicial circuits. In fiscal year 2019-20, 7,154 youths participated in diversion programs statewide.


Tachana Joseph-Marc is a policy analyst at Florida Policy Institute in Orlando [emphasis added]."


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