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Miami Herald guest column by Judge Orlando Prescott: Offering kids a brighter future

Jan. 6, 2013


As a juvenile court judge, I am pleased to express support for the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Roadmap to System Excellence. I am proud that Florida is taking bold steps to comprehensively reform our juvenile justice system to become a national model for the humane and effective treatment of troubled youth.

As a judge, my priorities are to enforce our laws and protect public safety. Every day in my courtroom, I see the cycle of delinquency that leads to adult criminal behavior and incarceration. The best way to promote safe communities is to break the cycle of behavior that brings youth into the courtroom in the first place. I administer justice in ways that I hope will teach our youth to avoid delinquent acts.

DJJ’s Roadmap follows a similar approach by delivering the right service, to the right youth, at the right time, so they can avoid developing a pattern of delinquency.

Wansley Walters, secretary of DJJ, is implementing reforms that give judges more intervention options for low-level offenders, and maintain the option of residential treatment in secure facilities for youth who pose a risk to public safety.

Florida has made impressive strides in delinquency reduction. Over the past five years, delinquency has dropped 35 percent statewide.

Local figures are even more encouraging. DJJ reports that the number of youth arrested in Miami-Dade dropped 44 percent in the past five years, from 7,666 in 2007-08 to 4,293 in 2011-12.

The Roadmap to System Excellence will guide us to even better results.

Comprehensive juvenile justice reform is needed, and DJJ is reaching out to the public to achieve it. I urge you to visit the Roadmap to System Excellence website at djj.state.fl.us/roadmap-to-system-excellence and learn more. Contribute your comments, questions and ideas online at djj.state.fl.us/roadmap-to-system-excellence/comments-and- questions.

By collaborating to shape reform efforts, we can further improve the strides our state is making in delinquency reduction and offer more hope to kids for a brighter future.

Orlando Prescott, administrative judge, Juvenile Division, Eleventh Judicial Circuit, Miami