Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters, Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson, Walton County Chief State Attorney Greg Anchors, Walton County Chief Public Defender Lenny Platteborz, Walton County School Superintendent Carlene Anderson and COPE Center CEO Rachel Gillis gathered at the Walton County Courthouse to announce county-wide implementation of Florida’s juvenile civil citation process.
“Civil Citation is an incredible alternative to arrest because it enables law enforcement to immediately hold youth accountable for poor behavior without tying up resources that are needed to handle more serious crimes or limiting the youth’s long-term prospects to become productive citizens. Most of these youth are not at risk of becoming chronic or serious offenders, particularly if we get to the root of the problem at the first sign of trouble, but one criminal arrest can limit a youth’s education, occupation and military opportunities,” said DJJ Secretary Walters.
Civil citation is a process that allows youth who commit first-time, non-violent misdemeanors to receive intervention services at the earliest stage of delinquency, which can help them avoid further involvement with the criminal justice system. Youth who successfully complete the required sanctions leave the program without an arrest record, a critical point considering arrest records often impede military, educational and employment opportunities.
There is also significant cost savings associated with the use of civil citation. In fiscal year 2012-13, statewide, 24,278 first-time misdemeanants were eligible for Civil Citation. Statewide, 30 percent of those youth were given Civil Citations rather than arrest and formal processing. This represents a potential estimated cost savings statewide of $33.7 million. In Walton County, 331 eligible misdemeanants were formally processed, costing an estimated total of $1.7 million, compared to the $127,766 that it would have cost to issue these youth Civil Citations.
By decreasing the likelihood that youth will reoffend, civil citation saves taxpayers long term as well. On average, it costs $40,873 per youth per year in a residential or correctional facility; the cost for taxpayers escalates further when youth enter the adult system. Prevention and diversion services, on average, cost $2,000 per youth per year — and benefit both the youth and the community.
The county-wide expansion required the partnership of many key stakeholders. Their collaboration highlights the importance of civil citation and its benefits.
COPE Center CEO Rachel Gillis, “COPE Center’s Teen Court collaboration with this Civil Citation Program will provide opportunities to youth in Walton County otherwise unavailable to them. COPE’s mission is focused on treatment and recovery. This program gives the teen a second chance. Our Teen Court has proven to be effective since its inception in 2004. We expect this program will continue on that path.”
No special funding is required to implement the civil citation program because it is simply a paper process merely holds arrest in abeyance until the citation requirements are successfully completed; then the child’s offense is forgiven and the arrest order is nullified. If the child fails to complete the civil citation requirements, the arrest proceeds.
DJJ’s most current statistics show civil citation is the most effective of all delinquency intervention efforts, having a recidivism rate of only six percent for youth who successfully completed the process in FY 2010-11. While allowing sanctions to be imposed — community service, restitution and letters of apology are a few examples — civil citation formalizes a process for youth and families to gain access to existing community intervention services at the earliest stage of delinquency and address the root issues motivating juvenile offenses.
Fifty of Florida’s 67 counties currently operate a juvenile civil citation process.
In FY 2011-12, the first full year of the statewide initiative, civil citation was available in most counties, and 25 percent of eligible youth were served. Civil citation utilization further increased during Fiscal Year 2012-13, with 30 percent of eligible youth receiving this pre-arrest diversion alternative.
Prior to 2011, civil citation was available at the local level as a diversion option. In 2011, the Florida Legislature revised the Civil Citation statute to require each community to provide civil citation or other similar diversion opportunities. As communities move forward to meet these requirements, DJJ is available to assist counties in the development of civil citation initiatives.