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Press Release Detail

Escambia County Juvenile Civil Citation Expansion Offers Equal Justice to Youth

State and local officials join forces to improve public safety, increase youth success and save taxpayer dollars  


Florida Department of Juvenile Justice               Escambia County Sheriff’s Office
Meghan Speakes Collins                                     Sena Maddison
Meghan.Speakes@djj.state.fl.us                          mmaddison@escambiaso.com
(850) 544-5387                                                   (850) 436-9277

PENSACOLA, Fla. – Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Secretary Wansley Walters, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan, State Attorney William “Bill” Eddins, Public Defender Bruce Miller, Pensacola Police Chief Chip W. Simmons, School Superintendent Malcolm Thomas and County Commissioner Lumon May gathered at the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office to announce county-wide expansion of Florida’s juvenile civil citation process.

DJJ Secretary Walters said, “This type of collaboration is precisely what we need to enact systemic change that will make Florida a national model for juvenile justice. Youth who break the law absolutely must be held accountable for their actions; civil citation is a great way to do that without establishing an arrest record, which can ruin their chances of a successful future. Additionally, it gives us the opportunity to get to the root of what is causing the youth’s behavior and address those underlying issues, decreasing the likelihood they will reoffend while also saving taxpayer dollars.”

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 are also significant cost savings associated with the use of civil citation. In fiscal year (FY) 2011-2012, there were 96,515 arrests; 26,210 of those were first-time misdemeanors. Twenty-five percent received a civil citation, resulting in an estimated cost savings of $32 million. During the same time period in Escambia County, there were 2,242 youth arrests; 562 were first-time misdemeanor arrests, reflecting a potential savings of $2.6 million.

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.

Walters added, “Too often youth who ‘act out’ are arrested and sent to DJJ for punishment, forcing them to enter the juvenile justice system needlessly. To use resources effectively, efficiently, and strategically, we must reserve serious sanctions, such as secure detention and residential treatment, for youth who pose the greatest risk to public safety and require the most intensive and expensive services.”

The county-wide expansion required the partnership of many key stakeholders. Their collaboration highlights the importance of civil citation and its benefits.

“The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office is proud to announce our partnership with other law enforcement agencies, the courts, state attorney’s offices, and the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice in the implementation of the Civil Citation Program. We are enthusiastic about the possibilities of this multifaceted approach to diverting young people from a life of criminal activity as well as affording them a chance to not be labeled for life with a criminal record,” said Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan.

Pensacola Police Chief Chip W. Simmons said, "The Pensacola Police Department supports the Juvenile Civil Citation program because it gives officers an alternate route when dealing with juveniles instead of automatically making an arrest for certain crimes. Sometimes youths makes mistakes. This gives officers an opportunity to write them a citation instead of creating an arrest record that could follow them the rest of their lives."

Superintendent Malcolm Thomas of the Escambia County School District has been a strong supporter of the county-wide expansion. Juvenile civil citations have been available to youths committing first-time misdemeanors in Escambia County’s schools since September 2012.

Superintendent Thomas said, “Civil citations offer first time offending youth an opportunity to learn from their mistake and avoid the lifetime stigma that an arrest will create. I applaud all of the agencies involved for their leadership in providing civil citations county wide.”

Lawmakers have also heralded the civil citation program.

Sen. Greg Evers said, “I’m happy to see Escambia County expanding its civil citation program. The legislation that governs civil citation requires signatures from a number of local and state officials, and I applaud those involved in Escambia County for taking the time to craft a policy that truly benefits our young people.”

Rep. Clay Ingram said, “Research has shown that the civil citation program can be beneficial for youth, their families and the community as a whole,” said State Representative Clay Ingram. “Civil citations give law enforcement an additional tool to maintain public safety, and they also help ensure that at-risk and troubled youth have a chance to reach their full potential.”

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.

Forty-nine of Florida’s 67 counties currently operate a juvenile civil citation process. To view a map of participating counties, click here.

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. This was a 33 percent increase over FY 2009-10.

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. To learn more about Florida civil citation, click here.