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Juvenile justice reform bill heads to House after significant changes

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After several significant changes, SB 314, which initially placed numerous restrictions on prosecutor’s ability to unilaterally charge juveniles as adults, is now moving to the House.

Sponsored by Miami Republican Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, the bill will continue to give broad discretion to prosecutors, as well as instituting more accountability and reporting requirements.

Originally, the measure proposed a two-tiered system to restrict so-called “direct file” to serious crimes and protect younger children from the process

As reported by LobbyTools, the bill seeks to eliminate mandatory direct file. It meant “a decision will have to be actively made to try that child as an adult,” Diaz de la Portilla said during the debate.

Prosecutors will have to provide a written description of why they did or did not transfer a child to adult court and the specific details about each case.

LobbyTools also noted that the Department of Juvenile Justice and the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability will use that information as the basis for yearly reports on the direct file system.

“The original bill was a lot more ambitious but it also came with a much higher price tag,” Diaz de la Portilla added. “When we’re back here next year, together we can work on implementing the complete reform of the direct file process and we can save more kids from going into adult court and ending up in an adult prison where they have basically no hope and no chance forever rebuilding their lives.”

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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