Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Coalition Pushing for Reform in Juvenile Justice; Advocates Say Too Many Youths Are Being Charged as Adults in Florida

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Coalition Pushing for Reform in Juvenile Justice; Advocates Say Too Many Youths Are Being Charged as Adults in Florida

Article excerpt

Byline: Rhema Thompson

A multi-agency coalition composed of both conservative and liberal juvenile-justice advocates is touring the state to push for the newest version of a bill aimed at limiting the terms that can land juveniles in adult court.

Tania Galloni, managing attorney with the Florida chapter of the Southern Poverty Law Center, joined Jacksonville Public Defender Matt Shirk and a host of others at the Times-Union building Tuesday.

The group, made up of several organizations including the Tallahassee-based conservative think tank James Madison Institute, spoke with the Times-Union editorial board about the latest efforts to reform the state's juvenile-justice system - among them a recently filed House bill that limits prosecutors' ability to charge juvenile offenders as adults in certain circumstances.

"We lead in the number of kids and we're in the minority in terms of due process," Galloni said.

Currently, the state is one of 15 states in the country that provides prosecutors with the power of "direct file" - a legal term for charging juveniles as adults - without review by a judge, she said. According to the group, over the last five years about 10,000 children have been charged as adults in the state.

T-U INVESTIGATION

Jacksonville became a focal point of the issue last year when a Times-Union investigation found juveniles in the area accept plea deals and subsequently lengthier detentions than anywhere else in the state. …

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