SEMINOLE – Why does the United States incarcerate far more youth – 336 youth per 100,000 population – than any other nation in the world? And why is Florida’s youth incarceration rate 40 percent higher than the national average?
These are among issues that will be explored in depth in the second of a series of forums at St. Petersburg College on Wednesday, March 27. The forum, titled “Kids Are Different: Youth in the Justice System,” is presented by the Project for Accountable Justice. It will be from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Seminole Campus of SPC, 9200 113th St. N.
PAJ is a coalition that combines academic research and practical solutions with the goal of helping state lawmakers reform Florida’s criminal justice system. The partnership includes the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at SPC, Florida State University, Baylor University, and Tallahassee Community College.
America’s juvenile justice system was established more than 100 years ago precisely because it was recognized that kids are different from adults. But today, that distinction often is blurred by the criminal justice system. The U.S. is the only country that regularly applies life sentences without parole on juvenile offenders. More than 2,500 inmates in U.S. prisons are serving life sentences without parole for crimes committed as juveniles.
A panel of experts will review the vast challenges that remain in how the state and nation address youth involved in delinquent behaviors and crime. The panelists will discuss reform efforts, the latest in research and promising practices, and recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings driving changes in how we handle the unique needs of children involved in our justice systems.
Members of the panel are:
• Major Scott Ballou, Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, Juvenile Justice Division.
• Jeanette Moll, juvenile justice policy analyst, Texas Public Policy Foundation/Right on Crime.
• Ajmel Quereshi, staff counsel, National Prison Project, American Civil Liberties Union.
• Irene Sullivan, senior judge, Florida Circuit Court, Juvenile and Family Divisions.
Joe Clark, president of the Eckerd Family Foundation, will moderate the program.
Based at Florida State University, the Project on Accountable Justice provides innovative research that provides options for criminal justice reform throughout Florida and the nation to turn the tide on expensive prisons with high recidivism rates. The first forum in the series explored the effect of incarceration in reducing crime. Future programs will look at pretrial decision-making and citizen oversight of the criminal justice system.
While the entire series is free and open to the public, advance registration is requested.