Recent Herald articles about the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) raise significant concerns about the agency’s operation. Unfortunately, they paint an incomplete picture.
Six years ago, DJJ embarked on an effort to strategically transform the way it serves at-risk and delinquent youth. This has been a daunting task filled with challenges, but led by a committed group of policymakers and practitioners, the agency has demonstrated great successes along the way.
In the past, and like most states, Florida relied heavily on services that emphasized deterrence, surveillance and control. Research shows that these types of programs do a poor job of reducing delinquency, and can actually increase the likelihood that youth will re-offend.
DJJ recognized that the core principle upon which its system needed to be rebuilt was that kids are moldable and that their behavior can be corrected if they receive services that address their needs. That did not mean that kids wouldn’t be held accountable for their actions, but that DJJ would utilize a more-balanced approach focused on providing services that would keep youth on track, reduce recidivism, and increase public safety.