Florida Charges Children as Adults More Than Any Other State

via Miss Millions' Flickr / CC2.0
Children may be the future, but Florida is putting its future behind bars. A new report from the Human Rights Watch blasts the state for charging children as adults more than any other state in the nation, and says that far too often, the decision is arbitrary.

Florida law allows prosecutors sole discretion over whether to charge a minor as an adult, and not even a judge can overturn the decision. The report claims this practice has led to an unusually large number of Florida's children being treated as adults in the criminal justice system.

"The children caught up in the 'direct file' law cannot legally vote, drink, or buy cigarettes in the state of Florida," Alba Morales, author of the report, said in a statement. "Yet they can be tried as adults with no judge evaluating that decision, and branded as felons for life."

The report also shows a troubling trend of racial disparity. In every judicial circuit in the state, black youths are tried as adults at a much higher rate than white youths in violent cases and drug offenses.

"Statewide, Florida is also treating its black male youth more harshly than their white counterparts," the report states. "Black boys make up 27.2 percent of children arrested for crime but account for 51.4 percent of youth sent to adult court; whereas white boys make up 28 percent of children arrested and account for only 24.4 percent of youth tried in adult court."

Even when controlling for the kinds of crimes committed by black and white youths, the disparity remains. In one district that covers portions of Tampa Bay, only 8.8 of white boys arrested for drugs were tried as adults. In contrast, 30.1 percent of black boys arrested for drugs were tried as adults.

And it's not like these kids are all violent criminals. In fact, 60 percent of cases of minors tried as adults in Florida in 2012-13 were for nonviolent crimes.

One Miami public defender told researchers he believes the high rates of trying children as adults is part of legal strategy by prosecutors.

"The moment they announce intent to direct file, the kid coughs up a plea," he said. Minors are often also urged to accept a plea deal by their lawyers early into the process just to avoid being tried as an adult.

However, interestingly, Miami-Dade has the lowest percentage of children charged under the "direct file" as adults that end up in adult jail. Only 11.9 percent of the such cases in the 11th Judicial Circuit, which cover all of and only Miami-Dade, ended with the child serving time in adult prison or jail. Up in Jacksonville's Fourth District, the rate was 74.3 percent.

HRW urges Florida leaders to repeal the law that allows prosecutors sole discretion over the matter and warns that a child's fate could depend upon the prosecutor. If the child is convicted of a felony charge, it could stick with him for the rest of his life.

"Florida's direct file law is not effectively serving public safety. Indeed, recent studies link transfers of juveniles to adult court to increases, not decreases, in recidivism," the report says. "And, as this report shows, 'direct file' is having negative, at times devastating, effects on the lives of thousands of children and their families."

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26 comments
jk850386
jk850386

the people are crazy i am 16 year old if i do some i don't want to be charged as no adult every if  i got two year to go no kid want to be hide bars with no rapes or no murders to be come one of their target in this world 

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

Children are NOT Adults.


Either LOWER the Age of Adulthood, or stop holding children to a level of responsibility society already knows they don't have.


How many Adults are charged as Children?



Bruce Bradshaw
Bruce Bradshaw

a child learns what they live, either from friends or family.

Sayad Khan
Sayad Khan

That's because the kids around here are criminals 90% of the time. They have no regard or respect for anything.

James G. Camp
James G. Camp

You've seen the stories, some of those kids over the past 15 years were terrorists at the high schools.

HarryTheHandyman
HarryTheHandyman topcommenter

WOW YOU TORE THOSE NUMBERS UP!!


KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK BUDDY!

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

...................nature vs nurture.......the environment these kids come from produces either NFL calibre prospects or drug fueled savage animals who are uneducatable and certainly unemployable.........FLORIDA is really not the place for BLACK people

Carl Snyder
Carl Snyder

old news. its been that way since the 80's and all the tourist killings, mostly perpetrated by youth.

Anastasia Biltmore
Anastasia Biltmore

^ That is true in my experience. North Florida is the beginning of "The South" and is VERY white Republican.

Chris Guapo
Chris Guapo

Florida is a very racist state. Sad to say. Especially north and central Florida.

Heather Rogerson
Heather Rogerson

Now put racial stats on violent crimes committed ..just saying! This is one thing Florida does right if you can kidnap rape and kill you are NOT a child !

Anastasia Biltmore
Anastasia Biltmore

Florida has a disproportionate number of heinous cases involving minors- I'm talking murder, armed robbery, etc. There is a REASON these juveniles are bound over as adults. If you don't, they serve slap-on-the-wrist- sentences and just go right back out to commit more crimes.

Jenny Fernandez Luis Cabello
Jenny Fernandez Luis Cabello

Thats because we have a bunch of underage delinquents committing crimes. Lock them up and throw away the key.

Boris McNair
Boris McNair

phuckin disgusting :( get your shit together florida

Alex Farley
Alex Farley

Not mentioned in the article, but I'm sure the corporate, for profit prison system has a lot to do w/it as well because of the demand to keep these facilities open.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

... that's because they're CHILDREN ... denied the rights and responsibilities of ADULTHOOD by civilized society.

Charlie
Charlie

Did you read how 60% of the crimes discussed here involve neither of those things.  The article actually read that more than half of these offenders are NON VIOLENT.  Why is that so difficult to comprehend.  Your response about raping and killing has, at most, 40% to do with this article, and in reality, next to nothing.

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

.......................how about taking a step further BACK before the crime event and explore the nutritional and housing and supervision INsecurity.....the kids typically have no stability in housing or food or supervision = period = so let a kid run wild and survive by themselves will yield these predictable results

give a kid earlier in the process a path towards being positive and productive and they don't become savage animals in their teens

we cannot reward breeders who have children just so those children qualify that parent, breeders are usually an unwed uneducated and unemployed YOUNG black girl,  for government support and free cheeze and oBaMaphones and SNAP and section 8 program and other financial incentives - only to have the children abandoned by that parent lost to drug abuse and criminal activity

these "throw-away kids" are often and predictably destined for failure and anti-social behavior as uncivilized freaks

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