Statewide Call to Action to Stop Arresting Children

On July 9th, over 460 leaders from 11 countywide DART Justice Ministry Organizations across Florida gathered virtually for a Call to Action to Stop Arresting Children. There were at least 112 HOPE leaders present on the call — way to go HOPE!

We united to highlight how many children across Florida are unnecessarily arrested, and thus branded for life with a criminal record, and to begin putting pressure on state and local officials to stop arresting children for 1st-time nonviolent misdemeanors.

Florida has been over-arresting children for minor offenses for many years. Across the state, our members shared stories of their children getting arrested for crossing though an orange grove after school, stealing an $8 dollar bracelet, etc.

When a child gets arrested, they are branded for life, which makes it hard to get jobs, get college scholarships, and get into the military.

WUSF Coverage
ABC Action News Coverage

Florida created a civil citation program so that children can face sanctions for misbehavior without being branded for life with a criminal record. When a child gets a civil citation, they have to write and apology letters, pay restitution, do community service. They get assessed and might be sent to family counseling, anger management, or drug treatment.

Less than 5% of children who get a civil citation ever get in trouble again.

We save $4,500 when we give a child a civil citation instead of arresting them.

In 2019 across the state of Florida

over 5,000 children were unnecessarily arrested

But the problem is that not all kids who commit first time misdemeanor offenses are getting access to civil citations. In the last 12 months, 5,000 children who could have received a civil citation were instead branded for life with criminal records.

In Hillsborough County in 2017, HOPE successfully pushed our local criminal justice stakeholders to expand our youth civil citation program. Since then, we have gone from a 32% usage rate to a 50% usage rate.

In Hillsborough County in 2019

461 children were unnecessarily arrested

But HALF of the children in Hillsborough County who are eligible for a civil citation are still being arrested. That means 461 children were unnecessarily arrests in 2019! This is unacceptable. Pinellas, Polk, Miami-Dade, and Duval Counties are all above an 80% usage rate – Hillsborough County lags far behind.

We were excited to have State Attorney Andrew Warren join us at this Call to Action to commit to take the lead and ensure that Hillsborough County also gets to at least 80% usage of civil citation. We look forward to working with him over the next months to ensure Hillsborough County stops arresting children because our children and community deserve better.