Essay: Juvenile justice systems

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  • Juvenile justice systems
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“I think it’s important for us as a society to remember that the youth within juvenile justice systems are, most of the time, youths who simply haven’t had the right mentors and supporters around them because of circumstances beyond their control- Q’orianka Kilcher.” The Florida Department of Justice is a Florida State Agency that is located in Tallahassee. DJJ was created in 1994 under the HRS Juvenile justice program office. DJJ is responsible for families and children who were in need of service such as dependency and delinquency cases. Certain goals of the DJJ is to strengthen their presence in the community and with the judicial legislative. They intervene to promote public safety and aim to preserve the mental health of these juveniles. The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice focuses on community safety and juvenile delinquency. DJJ vision is for families and children to live in a community that is considered safe and nurturing, along with community needs being met. DJJ also want to support the success in the community and recognize the community for its strength. According to DJJ their mission is to “To increase public safety by reducing juvenile delinquency through effective prevention, intervention, and treatment services that strengthen families and turn around the lives of troubled youth.”
Traditionally Florida’s juvenile justice program is based on rehabilitation and redirection. This program is not designed to seem as punishment compared to the adult criminal justice system. DJJ focuses on redirecting positive behavioral changes. Ways that DJJ is able to redirect positive behavior is through Project Payback. Project payback assist people who are on probation. They assist these probationers by helping them find employment and pay restitution to their victims.

There are more services that the DJJ offer such as detentions services, health services, education services, prevention and victim services, residential services, and probation and community intervention.

There are twenty-one detention centers located in Florida. These facilities provide these children with custody, education, supervision, and medical services including for substance abuse and mental health.

With the department of Juvenile Justice many of these children come into these facilities with pre-existing conditions (renal failure, sickle cell disease, hypertension) that they did not know about or never had these conditions accessed. So their goal is to ensure that these children while in their care are provided with professional and quality care.

Along with quality care DJJ try to ensure that these children are developing academically by providing educational programs along with career readiness opportunities (certifications in welding, carpentry, culinary arts, etc.).

Outside of these juvenile facilities DJJ provides probation and community intervention. This program is designed to decrease Juvenile crime throughout the community. Children who are at risk such as runaway, truancy, and those with behavioral problems are the main targets. They also work with children who have been arrested and needs to transitioned back into society. With the help of residential services these youths continue receiving care outside of the Juvenile facilities.

In order for DJJ to operate effectively they have a process that consists of six components. These components are prevention, probation, detention, court disposition, probation(supervision), residential probation (transition& reenter). The office of prevention and victim services responsible for making sure that the children they work with are not placed in the juvenile system. They work early on with children who are considered high or low risk. Another component of DJJ is Probation Intake where the child is given DRAI (Detention Risk Assessment Instrument) assessment to determine whether the child is a risk to public safety and to determine the service needs (probation, volunteer, community service) probation of a child. Detention is another component of DJJ. If a child is awaiting a court disposition, they may temporarily be placed at a detention center (up to 21 days). If a court ordered sanction is violated that child may be detained longer.

Another component is court disposition, which is where a child has adjudicatory hearing, where a judge determines the sanctions and outcomes for a child. Probation supervision is another way that the agency stays organized. Youth is given a juvenile probation officer that supervise that child and comes up with a YES Plan to establish goals with the youth, to help them prosper in the future. After an adjudicatory youth may be placed in a residential facility for at least 60 to 90 days, these children are typically low risk. Youth who are considered maximum risk may be in the care of DJJ for up to 18 to 36 months. The last component of DJJ is probation transition and reentry, the youth parole officer helps them transition back in to society.

DJJ collaborates with major agencies that are also located in Florida. They collaborate with the Florida Department of Education to make sure that their programs are compliant with federal and state laws. DJJ also works closely with administrative units (Bureau of Budget, Bureau of Finance and Accounting, Bureau of General services, Bureau of Information Technology, Bureau of Human resources). These sub units are responsible for repairing facilities, construction, telecommunication, support services, and property management, etc. DJJ offers 5,748 community programs statewide (mental health, mentoring, crisis, life skills, etc.).

A comprehensive legislation was created in 2000 named “Tough Love.” Tough Love steered away from the social services model approach and steered more towards a punitive approach in the criminal justice system. Instead of being under a strategy that consisted of punishment. Tough Love focused on redirection and rehabilitation to effect positive behavioral changes in the youth.

The Blueprint commission was developed in 2007 under governor Charlie Crist. This blueprint was used as a guide to help the department meet its mission. In order for DJJ to operate effectively prevention, intervention and treatment services are needed to help these trouble youths turn their lives around, they work with multiple stakeholders because DJJ cannot change these children lives alone.

The Department of Juvenile Justice also have and Implementation plan that was created in 2008. by then secretary Frank Peterman. The Implementation Plan was created around DJJ core values, vision, mission, and the Blueprint Commission. This plan was created to be the blueprint of how the agency can effectively meet their goals and objectives by 2012. Changes are able to be made on this plan throughout the years to come. Every four years the plan is to be replaced or modified in order to reflect new research and analyze the department’s progress.


DJJ has a variety of ways that they measure the agency performance. They measure their performance through PMR (Current Performance Measurement Reporting System) in order to share the agency performance to stakeholders throughout the state. PMR use interactive tables that are updated monthly and some on quarterly basis. PMR also rank their programs performance. If a program is underperforming there is a possibility that they may be penalized and affect their future funding from the agency.

Some parents have concerns when their child is placed in a low ranking program because they automatically assume that low ranking means that the program is not good. When a program is considered low ranking, it simply means that the program is struggling to meet contractual standards, not the performance of the program. There are other ways DJJ measures their performance such as Residential Data Reports (outputs and outcomes), Interactive Data Reports (Delinquency in schools, Quality Improvement Data Reports, etc.).

According to the American Bar Association, the state of Florida is recognized for their success when it comes to keeping their youth out of the system. Due to their great success, they have established a youth’s cabinet that interprets the silos and influence collaborations with other state agencies in the United States. Many of Florida programs are manage, monitored, and analyzed using a data collection that’s highly sophisticated, resulting in many serious offenses being deflected due to Florida providing Intervention and shelter (Delinquency Diversion Service Program.

The Bureau of Budget is in charge of preparing the Legislative Budget requests for the department. The Bureau of Budget is also in charge allocating and developing the Annual approved operating budget(DJJ). The Legislature also put the Bureau of Budget in charge of managing cash and balancing DJJ trust funds. They are also in charge of preparing all federal and state reports. They make sure that DJJ does not exceed the budget levels that were authorized. According to the Florida Statue, if detention care is provided for youth then the state and county is required to cover the costs for that youth’s care (joint obligation). This fiscal year each county is required to pay $42.5 (annual percentage share), after they pay their percentage DJJ is left to pay the remains balance of the detention cost).

They are also in charge of The 2016-2017 Total base agency budget, for DJJ the requested budget is $115, 969,460. For 2016-2017 the legislative budget request is $545.7 million. Their general revenue is 395.7 million and trust funds is $150.0 million.

According to the budget report employees for DJJ estimate 3,265.50 FTE (the number of hours an employee works full-time). My calculations show that from Fiscal Year 2012 to Fiscal year 2016 there has been a 13% change within the DJJ.

FY 2012

FY 2013

FY 2014

FY 2015

FY 2016






DJJ experienced many funding issues. One of the issues that they experience is maintaining safe and health facilities. The total request in 2016-2017 budget for repairs and maintenance of the facilities is $8.2 million. These facilities need roof replacement, their lock systems need to be upgraded, HVAC systems needs to be replaced, a lot of these facilities also come across plumbing issues.

In non-Residential programs the staff to youth ratio is 1:8 during the awake hours and 1:12 during the hours the youth are sleep. in the budget request for 2016-2017, 1.9 million is requested in order to provide 10 non secure Residential with staffing. Also in the budget request and additional $1.3 million was requested to add an additional 40 slots across Florida for PACE Centers (girls counseling program). DJJ facilities also experience network switch failures and in the budget request $698,193 was requested.

The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee included in the budget request how the agency can save $25.5 million if they were to reduce the Residential bed capacity ($11.2 million), close four detention centers (5.9 million), and reduce community supervision centers ($8.4 million).

Some challenges DJJ face when it comes to fulfilling their mission is keeping children who children who don’t need to be in the system out of the system. A lot of the issues most youth face can be fixed outside of the justice system. Too many children are being put in these detention centers due to lack of understanding of the needs, lack of placement, and lack of clemency.

Many of these referrals are due to schools zero tolerance policy when it comes to drugs and combative behavior. DJJ believes that more tax initiatives(local) and dollars are needed for prevention services. There’s minimal funding for independent living programs and more programs are needed so that families can catch warning signs earlier in order to for these youth to access care.

They also believe that there is a lack of experience and training when it comes to dealing with these youths. There’s a lack of resources such as vocational education and health services (mental health).

There’s also a lack of services provided to young women who are considered high risk. Ways DJJ can improve is by creating more treatment programs for females, bringing in more professionals that understand their gender specific needs.

DJJ believe that a way these youth lives can be enhanced is by collaborating with more agencies such as, Health Care Administration, Agency for Persons with Disabilities, and Children and Families. Collaborating with these agencies can help individualize these children needs.

“We must never give up on our young people (Governor Christ).” Even though DJJ is headed in the right direction as far as having the Tough Love policy, providing over 5000 programs throughout the state of Florida and leading overall success the juvenile justice system throughout the country. They are continuously working hard to make sure that these children do not get lost in the system. The agency needs more funding because these children are our future and by putting more money into these programs, it will help keep these children on a straight path in order to prosper in the future.

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