Criminal Justice

The GNV4ALL criminal justice team has looked at issues such as recidivism, jail diversion, the decriminalization of drugs and homelessness, mental health, racial disparities and disproportionate juvenile arrests. Among the solutions being considered are reducing recidivism through the restoration of rights and ways to remove barriers to employment such as the “ban the box” campaign. The team is also looking at ways to combat implicit bias in law enforcement and the judiciary. An early proposal that received support from local law enforcement was reducing the availability of lookalike guns that are mistaken for the real thing by police with tragic results.

Team Recommendations

Criminal Charges Under 12

Recommend that all law enforcement agencies in Alachua County to collectively develop a policy that addresses children ages 12 and younger. Law enforcement will exhaust all alternatives prior to criminally charging kids 12 and younger with non-violent misdemeanor crimes. Further, if it is determined that criminal sanctions may appropriate, the state attorney must be consulted and a supervisor of the involved law enforcement agency will be consulted for approval prior to action. A collective effort to create a uniform policy across all agencies with in the county will ensure uniform compliance and greater understanding for the citizens. Currently there is an 85% completion rate for the civil citation program through the Teen Court. By utilizing civil citation and other restorative justice programs in lieu of criminal charges, the child will not only avoid being labeled with an arrest number, they realize many other benefits. Arrest for a child costs the tax payers on average $5000, as opposed to teen civil citation, which on average costs $500. There is also a 34% recidivism rate if a child is criminally charged and a less than 4% rate in the Teen Court program. Change in policy will help address the current racial disparity issue that is plaguing our county.

Recidivism Diversion

Establish a support system for individuals re-entering our community from county jail, state and federal prison. In order to reduce recidivism, our community will need to address the diverse needs of individuals who are released from incarceration through community involvement in ban the box, second chance, and restoration of civil rights. System may include a one stop center for services or a program approach. Program would involves case management and mentorship. Each individual would be contacted prior to release in order to have a plan identified upon their release. This program would provide a case manager responsible for coordinating needs to include transportation, transitional housing, educational/vocational training, a driver’s license (if eligible), employment services, assisting with completing post-release legal requirements, identifying mental health and substance abuse treatment centers, and linking them to other support systems (e.g. faith communities). Peer-facilitated support groups would also be beneficial to aid the individual to readjusting to their community. A peer mentor/counselor would be able assist them along the way by coaching and help them navigate through the system, including a restitution program. Peer counselors would be paid individuals who have successfully completed the program and would have the opportunity to reinvest.

School Wrap Around

Encourage the increase and expansion of wrap around services programs for middle school students, including additional training for teachers to bring awareness to their implicit biases. The increase in criminal behavior significantly increases by the age of 11 to 12-years-old and the most effective way to prevent juvenile delinquency has indisputably been to assist children and their families early on. Middle school is a sensitive age that children begin to test boundaries, explore their environment and value and seek peer approval rather than from adults. By providing diverse services through existing community partnerships we would achieve the goal of decreasing and suppressing the crime-age curve. Programs can focus on a wide range of potential support outlets, including education, recreation, community involvement, and parent-child interaction training programs. Programs would not necessarily be required to be standardized for all schools, but instead be customized for each school to address the needs of their children.

Implicit Bias Training

Encourage sustainable and ongoing training for all criminal justice and community stakeholders (including, but not limited to, judges, district attorneys, court clerks, and law enforcement officers) on implicit bias, procedural justice and “trauma informed response”. Establish best practices that will support and maintain the required training. Implement pilot projects using community members and stakeholders as a sounding board for procedural refinement. This will help protect our community members that work in our judicial system from potentially contributing to any racial and ethnic disparity.

Pre-Arrest Diversion

Recommend that City and County Commission work together to expand the adult civil citation to include not only misdemeanor marijuana but further extend its use to include non-violent misdemeanors. In order to decrease incarceration costs, keep people from having criminal records and help to reduce racial disparities there is a need to use civil citations for non-violent adult misdemeanors. Furthermore, the citation program should be made available and applicable in all of the municipalities in Alachua County. This will allow the citizens and “suspects” to expect the same consequences regardless of jurisdictional boundaries. The inclusion of non-violent misdemeanors will allow first time and small time offenders to be held accountable for their crimes. The more we can develop pre-arrest diversion the more we can avoid criminal records ruining job and/or school prospects. The goal would be to help our community produce productive citizens.