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					                     Miami-Dade County, Florida
              And Reform of the Juvenile Justice System
Miami-Dade County, Florida is moving into a new era in the field of juvenile
justice. With the creation of the Juvenile Services Department (JSD), the
nationally recognized work in assessment and casework developed in Miami at
the Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC) for arrested juveniles can now be used for
children without the arrest. The potential savings to the community are great both
in terms of monetary savings and the ability to implement a true systemic
prevention model. Those savings, of course, prove to be secondary to the
positive impact on troubled children and their families.

In May, 2005, Miami-Dade County, Florida changed the nationally recognized
juvenile arrest facility, the Miami-Dade Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC), into a
Juvenile Services Department (JSD). This positioned Miami-Dade County to use
successful juvenile justice tools and systems with children who are at-risk but not
under arrest. By building the structure around an arrest facility, help is available
24 hours a day. This is a natural progression of the work of the National
Demonstration Project (NDP) with the U.S. Department of Justice Office of
Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and national researchers
that has been ongoing since 2000 with the ultimate objective to reform an active,
functioning system.

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy recognized Miami-Dade
County, Florida’s Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC) as an “exemplary program”
in the President’s 2004 Drug Strategy Report. The JAC was noted as a facility
that is leading the charge in developing ways to “Intervene Early.”

                             Historical Perspective

Miami-Dade County, Florida is the largest county in the State of Florida which is
the fourth largest state by population in the United States. By metropolitan area,
Miami-Dade County (along with Ft. Lauderdale) is the seventh largest area by
population in the United States and is the eighth largest county in the nation. It
also represents the fourth largest local government in the country.

In the middle 1990’s, the arrest process for juveniles in Miami-Dade County,
Florida was so dysfunctional that organized crime was using juveniles as its labor
force and coaching them on how to provide false information. That prevented law
enforcement and officials from knowing if this child was already in the juvenile
justice system. In an urban community of over 2 million, juvenile arrests hit 20,000
in 1995 with dire increases predicted. High profile and violent juvenile offenses
were discouraging visitors from all over the world, jeopardizing Miami’s largest
industry which is tourism. In an era where information holds the key, the only
information authorities in Miami-Dade County had about the juvenile arrest
population was the actual number of arrests. Even that information was difficult to
obtain, with over thirty municipal law enforcement agencies processing arrested
juveniles independently of each other with no coordination.

At this time, the Florida Legislature created language in the state statutes that
established the concept of Juvenile Assessment Centers (JACs). These facilities
represent, first and foremost, arrest-processing centers that coordinate the
different agencies that interface with arrested youth. As the JACs have developed
and opened in Florida, the twenty facilities reflect the needs and resources of the
individual community they operate in. Miami-Dade County’s needs dictated a
large, comprehensive state-of-the-art facility designed to be the starting point for
juvenile justice system reform. During the intensive 3-year community
planning process to develop the JAC, one major goal was critical. The
Miami-Dade JAC wanted to do more than simply process arrested juveniles.

The first year of operation was dedicated to the huge task of defining a new way
of doing business. While contending with procedures, jurisdictional disputes, and
the sometimes difficult implementation of advanced technology, the collective
agencies at the JAC achieved unprecedented efficiencies. Previously, the
complete process of arresting a juvenile that could take up to six weeks for a non-
detainable juvenile offender, could now take less than two hours.

 Police officers, formerly spending an average of six hours processing juveniles,
are in and out of the JAC in an average of 15 minutes. This includes a pre-file
conference with prosecutors. Previously, these conferences would occur days or
even weeks after the arrest, holding up case filing decisions. Those decisions now
take place immediately following the arrest. For the first time in the United States,
Live-scan fingerprint technology was implemented for juveniles. This was paired
with a multi-tiered identification process to tell us whether or not this is a juvenile’s
first arrest, which is a critical piece of information in juvenile justice. Previously, it
was impossible to determine if a child was in the system particularly if he gave
incorrect personal information. It allows for the administration of assessments to
100% of juveniles entering the system, which was not possible before the JAC.
We are connected by technology to the Courts which allows the case to be
created in the JAC and placed on the Judge’s calendar. Lastly, the complete
cooperation of all law enforcement agencies through the Dade County Chiefs of
Police permits this JAC to be the centralized point of entry into the system. This
allows the Miami-Dade JAC to collect critical information on the complete juvenile
arrest population.

                          National Demonstration Project

During the first year of operation as efficiencies were achieved, two very important
observations were made. First, the overall arrest population could be broadly
categorized into three groups: 1) kids behaving in a typical delinquent way, i.e.
loitering, shoplifting, school fights, etc.; 2) kids acting out on serious issues in their
lives, i.e. substance abuse, family and school problems, etc; and 3) serious,
habitual, and potentially dangerous juvenile offenders. Second, there was a great
deal of quality research being conducted throughout the United States in the area
of juvenile justice. Unfortunately, no instruction was given on how to apply the
principles of the different areas of research in a system that was processing a
diverse and complex population of children.

This was the basis that led the Miami-Dade Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC) to
propose the National Demonstration Project and receive funding from the United
States Congress and the United States Department of Justice that would partner
researchers and operational staff in the reform of an active, functioning system.
This project has been ongoing since 1999. It has allowed Miami-Dade County to
develop the foundation needed to effectively plan and strategically apply
specialized, research-proven interventions and programs based on the needs of
the children in the system. In a time of limited resources, it would ultimately be
possible to provide an alternative to the mass production manner of dealing with
an entire population of juvenile offenders.

Prior to the opening of the JAC, as stated above, there was a strong degree of
dysfunction among the many parts of the system. As a result, many children were
not being served in an effective manner and valuable resources were being
wasted. Due to that, we planned the National Demonstration Project to approach
our system from multiple directions.

                            Significance of Cultural Data

Priority one was to develop the capability to collect useful data that would allow us
to understand the scope of our population. Since beginning, we have collected
data on over 120,000 juvenile arrests in a manner that allows the community to
organize the population by age, offense, address, and frequency of arrest. Most
important, Miami records ethnic backgrounds with juvenile arrest data in order to
allow the community to incorporate cultural sensitivity and strengths into
interventions. This powerful analysis allows funding sources to strategically fund
juvenile justice programs based on the cultural values of the specific population.

Recognition of the cultural background of at-risk youth is critical for effective
interventions. In 2002, the Youth Law Group in Washington, D.C. called for the
better collection of data and the recognition of ethnicity. Previously, in the State of
Florida, arrested juveniles were recognized as either black or white. It has been
determined that this does not give us the type of information that is useful for the
development of culturally appropriate interventions. For example, in Miami-

Dade, over 57% of the population are Hispanic, and can be either black or
white. Yet, we know that Hispanic juveniles and their families from South America
respond differently to certain interventions than Hispanics from the Caribbean
islands or Central America. Cubans alone comprise almost 30% of the general
population and well over half of the Hispanic population. Within the juvenile
arrest population of Miami-Dade, Cuban juveniles represent the largest Hispanic
arrest group and the second largest overall ethnic group in number of arrests.
Within the Hispanic sub-group, the second largest group falls to Puerto Rican
juveniles and Nicaraguan are third.

Black juveniles are tremendously overrepresented within our local arrest
population. African-American children represent the largest group of juveniles with
39% of all the arrests. African-Americans, however, represent only 20% of the
general population. Haitians have consistently represented 9% of the juvenile
arrest population, but Haitians are only 4% of the general population. Among
black children, Jamaicans represent the third highest cultural group.

Within the immigrant populations, and this has been particularly true with the
Haitian population, there are some unique challenges that contribute to their
children being represented in the juvenile justice system. The service needs of
this community have been difficult to ascertain given the cultural aspects of this
newly migrated population. Research indicates that help seeking patterns are
virtually unknown within this community. Language limitations often mean that
the children are acting as interpreters, and many times they are interpreting the
laws and the culture in a way that allows them to do what they want. Parents are
afraid when dealing with law enforcement and the courts. Many times
misinterpreting juvenile justice court with immigration court. Many fear deportation
when their children are arrested and, therefore, are difficult to engage in family
based interventions.

At a very early point within this project, the research team discovered that
relatively little research had been conducted on Haitian immigrants to Miami and
even less was known about the problems facing Haitian youth and their parents. It
was determined that there is a strong need to focus on the development of more
comprehensive delivery of culturally sensitive parenting programs, focusing
primarily and more specifically on the needs of parents whose children are directly
involved with the Juvenile Justice system. Parent education programs in which
culture and home language is acknowledged and respected are necessary.
Families need to receive services that are responsive to their needs and issues.
Knowledge and skill development must be provided to parents. Parents need to
learn appropriate and culturally sensitive discipline techniques and behaviors that
are consistent within the new culture that they live. The need for the creation of a
comprehensive advocacy component was determined. Immigrant parents require
aid in brokering needed services and resources and guidance in matters related
to at-risk youth. A viable outreach alternative would include the implementation of
a Television and Radio education component geared towards educating parents
about the full spectrum of services available and issues which may seriously
affect their children’s future.

                          Significance of Assessment

Since focus was being given to programs that address specific populations and
issues, we needed to insure that an individual child would get the appropriate
service or program. Therefore, we began to focus on developing expertise in the
area of assessment. Important work has addressed the true value of assessment
when used to determine appropriate interventions and drive the type of casework.
In Miami, we used assessment instruments that are evidence-based and
administered verbally by a Juvenile Services specialist. They are computerized
and the information contributes to our data collection. Unfortunately, for many
years, assessments in juvenile justice were used to provide insight to the
assessor in determining where the child would go next. The assessment would
not follow the child nor would the information be given to the decision makers or
judges determining sanctions or interventions. Families were rarely brought into
the process. The inclusion of the family at the point of arrest has been
documented as an important piece that is often missing with juvenile justice.
Extensive effort was dedicated to the assessments for children under 12 years of
age. All juvenile justice assessments were previously designed and tested for
adolescents above 13 years of age.

Every arrested juvenile receives a screening when they are being processed. If a
child exhibits elevated markings on the screening, then a full assessment is
administered. While using the Massachusetts Youth Screening Instrument
(MAYSI), we determined that 50% of all screened juveniles elevate in areas of
anger, suicide ideation, depression, somatic complaints, trauma, or substance
abuse. On average, 4 juveniles a month, out of the average 915 processed
juveniles, are taken to a secure mental health facility for observation.

The MAYSI also revealed that of the remaining 50% of juveniles that do not
elevate on the screening, around half or 25% of the total population are deemed
at-risk of future elevation. The remaining group of 25% falls into the group of just
kids misbehaving and at low risk of re-arrest.

We recently implemented a new assessment instrument which relates particularly
to the risk of re-arrest. It was developed in the State of Washington and is called
the Positive Achievement Change Tool (PACT). We recently implemented a new
assessment instrument which relates particularly to the risk of re-arrest. It was
developed in the State of Washington and is called the Positive Achievement
Change Tool (PACT). We have administered it through May 8, 2007 on 15,564
juveniles. We determined that 57% were rated as Low Risk to re-offend with 16%
Moderate Risk, 15% Moderately High Risk and 12% High Risk. Suspension or
expulsion from school has occurred with 73%. Almost the same percentage, 72%
associate with Anti-Social Peers. Almost half or 45% have Inadequate Parental
Supervision and 11% have parents who are currently having problems. Over a
third or 37% Use Drugs but only 15% consider that they have a Drug Problem.
Anger Problems occur in 54% of those assessed. Reasons for committing the
crime ranged from 33% due to Impulse, 28% due to Peers, and 16% due to

Money. As stated, this tool specifically pertains to recidivism. We also have other
tools for psycho-social, substance abuse and mental health assessments.

We use the information from the assessments to determine the type of service,
program or therapy that the child and family needs. It plays a large part in our
casework in overseeing the progress of the child. If a child is not having success,
we work to put the child in another program or service. Our objective is to
continue our oversight, under the supervision of our Clinical staff, until the child
and his family successfully resolve the issues that brought him to be arrested.

                      Diversion as an Alternative to Court

During the past nine years, we have focused on developing alternatives to the
traditional juvenile justice system. We now offer a continuum of diversion
programs designed to serve a range from minor offenders to more serious

An important component in that continuum was the development of the Post
Arrest Diversion (PAD). This is an alternative arrest-processing program that has
allowed the JAC to keep first-time-arrested juveniles for minor offenses from
entering the traditional juvenile justice system. Historically in the United States,
this is the group of offenders that is usually given minimal attention until children
begin to re-offend. This program also provided a format to apply the best research
practices at the earliest point of entry, identify risk factors and apply a
personalized diversion program that addressed the issues of the child, including
the family, and not the offense. We were successful in getting Florida State
Statute language passed to allow juveniles successfully completing the program
an opportunity to eliminate their arrest record. From 2000 to 2007, the National
Demonstration Project prevented 10,351 arrested juveniles from entering the
state juvenile justice system with the Post-Arrest Diversion (PAD) Program.
Miami-Dade County documented a community systems savings of $46
million by keeping 10,351 juveniles out of juvenile court system with the PAD

                              Specialized Services

Miami-Dade County has also focused on developing and bringing programs
specifically designed to serve specialized populations. After extensive study,
examples include new ways to serve the most troubled families of serious juvenile
offenders. We have developed new ways to work with the community to address
the over representation of Haitian children in the system. This is important when
dealing with the issues of newly immigrant families. We are also implementing a
new strategy to provide gender specific therapies to girls in the context of
community programs that serve both girls and boys. This is in response to the fact

that while girls make up over 20% arrests, resources are limited in funding
programs that serve only girls.

One of our most important initiatives concern children, age 12 and under, that are
being arrested. Juvenile justice research has uncovered important information
regarding children being arrested under the age of 12. A study conducted by Dr.
David Altschuler at Johns Hopkins University documents “seven years of warning”
before a juvenile becomes a serious, violent offender. Data has also shown that
the most serious juvenile offenders in the 15 and up age range have most likely
entered the system under the age of 12. This demonstrates that an arrested child
in the under 12 group represents significant risk factors by simply being in that
age category. Furthermore, in a recent report from the U.S. Department of
Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) under
principal investigator Dr. Barbara J. Burns, children age 12 and younger (referred
to as child delinquents) “are two to three times more likely to become tomorrow’s
serious and violent offenders”. The research also indicates that “these children
are potentially identifiable either before they begin committing crimes or at the
very early stages of criminality, times when interventions are most likely to
succeed. Services that target these very young offenders offer an exceptional
opportunity to reduce the overall level of crime in a community.”

This knowledge forces us to look at local systemic realities affecting this age
group. First, due to the young age, the juvenile justice system has few options
other than diversion for this age population regardless of the seriousness of the
offense. Most diversion programs are currently designed to address adolescents.
The assessment instruments currently being used that should allow the system to
identify and address these issues in a meaningful manner were not designed for
this age group. Further, treatment and casework protocols to determine the
developmental, behavioral, or family issues that contributed to the child being
arrested did not exist.

In Miami-Dade County, 6% of all the juvenile arrests since 1998 have been with
children 12 and under. From 1998 through May, 2007 there were 7,314 arrests
involving children of this age group. The top three charges are Petty Theft (15%),
Battery (9.4%), and Burglary (8.7%). The good news is that arrests in this age
group have fallen 50% from 1998 to 2005.

The Young Offender Project (YOP) implements new assessment, processing and
casework protocols for the under 12 age group. A team of experts in assessment
and casework with younger children from the United States and Canada have
worked with us to implement age appropriate assessment and processing.
Training is being conducted with specially trained staff who will work with the
children. Further, JSD is working with researchers to develop appropriate case
management protocols for this group regardless of whether the offender is
diverted or under the jurisdiction of the court.

Lastly, we are currently working with law enforcement and juvenile justice
partners in Miami-Dade to finalize special protocols for this age group. We will

then pursue local legislation to not arrest any child under 12 years of age.
Referral and specialized teams will determine if the child needs to be removed
from the home or require judicial intervention. The focus will be on the family
surrounding the child who has committed the offense.

                            Overall Accomplishments

Since opening, juvenile arrests have been reduced by 30% from the year
1998 (16,532 arrests) to 2005 (11,690 arrests). In the same time period, juvenile
arrests in the entire State of Florida were reduced 11%.

Miami-Dade County has documented a savings of over 795,738 hours of police
officer time with juvenile arrests, saving $23 million in police costs. Miami-Dade
County has documented a community systems savings of $46 million by keeping
10,351 juveniles out of the juvenile court system with the first time offender
diversion program. That is a total of over $58 million in system efficiencies in
just two areas alone.

Through a database with over 120,000 juvenile arrests, we have organized
the population through data in order to strategically serve juveniles according
to special issues: Girls, Haitians, and Young Children (12 and under). We
provide data to local funders of juvenile justice programs to insure that
services relate to the actual arrest population.

                Formation of the Juvenile Services Department

Miami-Dade County has recognized that a community does not need to wait until
a juvenile gets arrested to utilize the advancements that have been made and
implemented for this population. The systems of applying assistance and
appropriate interventions can be available to all children at-risk and families in
crisis. In 2005, the Board of County Commissioners voted to change the Juvenile
Assessment Center to a Juvenile Services Department, expanding our scope and
mission. The first year was spent stabilizing and training employees of the
department which doubled in size and developing our long range plans. While we
maintain offices in the centrally located downtown Miami with our 24 hour arrest
facility, we now have two additional offices in the north and south areas of the
county. With advanced technology and laptop computers, our employees visit
schools and the homes of families we serve. And while the arrest facility operates
around the clock, we are available there to help a family at any time of the day
without an arrest.

Why is this significant development? In Miami-Dade County, and throughout most
of the United States, two established systems exist. One is juvenile justice for
children after they have been arrested. The other is the dependency system that
provides oversight to a family if protection of a child (or children) is needed. This
system can remove the child from the family unit when it is necessary. Entering

either system is based either on an arrest or a crisis situation. Prior to those
occurrences, there has been no system in place to assist a family. Families who
are troubled, overwhelmed, and under resourced often struggle on their own to
secure assistance. The formation of the new department can provide a bridge for
families and represent a resource to help them identify issues and secure
appropriate help before they encounter arrest or crisis. It also provides them with
someone to continue oversight and guidance with the family and provide
additional help if needed.

Service referral is critical and needs to occur before the issues of the children and
their families fall under the jurisdiction of the courts, as both of the previously
noted systems do. The creation of a new system allow us an opportunity to
address the family’s needs and avoid the issues that occur within the juvenile
justice system that continue to hurt our children.

                  Addresses Overrepresentation of Minorities

One of those systemic issues that contribute to the over representation of minority
children is a juvenile arrest warrant, which results in immediate incarceration at a
State Detention Center. Juveniles remain incarcerated until they are placed in a
State program or released by a Judge. Under ordinary circumstances, the
decision to detain a child at the time of arrest is determined by the severity of the
crime that he is charged with. In addition, a juvenile may also be detained if he
has a history of multiple arrests (even minor charges) or violation of previous

Yet, a juvenile will automatically be re-arrested and sent to the Detention Center if
he misses court, not because he is a serious or repeat offender. This now places
him in the category of a repeat juvenile offender and it exposes him to a level of
delinquency with other detainees that he has previously not been involved with.
And these children are almost exclusively minority children. There may be many
reasons for a child to miss court and all of them ultimately involve an adult who
has responsibility for him. Parents or guardians forget the court date, are afraid to
go to court due to immigration issues, their own criminal issues or they may not
be able to leave their job without negative consequences. Yet, the child moves
deeper in the juvenile justice system due to this issue.

With the new Department, a county-wide Civil Citation will allow police officers to
refer a child that has committed a minor offense without making an arrest. This
allows us to evaluate the child and family and secure services if needed. If not, we
can require community service or additional school work. All of this is done
without an arrest or an appearance in court. We began piloting the Civil Citation
Program with two police departments and, as of June 1, we have 159 youth in the
program. We are now looking to expand Civil Citation to all 35 arresting agencies.

                        Addresses Mental Health Issues

Some children have serious mental health issues that the family is aware or in
some cases, the family does not recognize. Two examples of this in Miami-Dade
County involved first degree homicide committed by two 14 year olds.

The first involved a calculated plan to commit murder. An eighth grader at a Miami
middle school took his friend of the same age into the restroom. He put the boy’s
head over the toilet and cut his throat. He then went to class with blood on his
clothing. He had written his plan and also intended to kill another friend. This
young man had recently transferred to this public school after a private school he
was attending asked him to leave. He had exhibited tendencies and risk factors
that were alarming but his parents did not recognize the seriousness of what they
were observing.

The second example involved a young man who is a member of a family from
Central America. The parents immigrated years ago when he was a small child
but they were not able to bring him. They prospered in the United States and had
two daughters. Their son, however, grew up on the streets in their home country
with little supervision. The parents worked for years to bring their son to Miami in
order to reunite their family. From the very beginning, they knew their son had
serious problems. With both parents working and three children to manage, they
were confused about where to go for help and whether they would be able to
afford it financially. The boy continued to have problems and murdered his eleven
year old sister.

Both boys have been transferred to the adult system where there are almost no
mental health services. They are being held in the adult jail and are currently
waiting for their trials.

These are extreme cases; however, emotionally disturbed children are routinely
arrested and brought to us in handcuffs. Since these children will be found
incompetent to stand trial, their criminal cases will not be filed and no services
administered. The new Department will soon begin a media campaign to reach
out to parents and alert them to risk factors. We will be available to help them 24
hours a day or in their home. We will also work with schools where 34% of all
children are arrested by the school police, most often for behavior problems.

                No Arrests for Children under 12 years of age

The Juvenile Services Department is currently working with law enforcement and
juvenile justice partners in Miami-Dade to finalize special protocols for children
under the age of 12 years. We will then pursue local legislation in Miami-Dade
County not to arrest any child under the age of twelve. For most offenses, referral
by a law enforcement officer will allow us to work with the child as previously

noted. For more serious offenses, a specialized, multi-disciplinary team will go to
where the police officer is holding the child to determine if the child needs to be
removed from the home and placed in a foster home or require judicial
intervention. It is our hope that a child will never again be handcuffed or held in a
detention facility. If we succeed, we will be the first jurisdiction in the United States
to have this policy.

Great Expectations

As stated, we have exceeded the other counties in the State of Florida and the
United States in reducing juvenile arrests. We fully expect to reduce our current
arrests by an additional 10% in the next year. Our long-range goal is to see
current juvenile arrests reduced by 50%. By doing that, we will have gone from
over 20,000 juvenile arrests in 1995 to 5,000. That would represent an overall
reduction of 75% in slightly over 15 years. We may still work with the same
number of children we see now, or even more. But it will mean that we can save
our community millions of dollars by serving them outside of the systems that
currently exist. More importantly, we can help these troubled children move into
adulthood as productive citizens without the shame of a criminal record. We do
not need the incarceration and the shackles. We will safeguard not only the
futures of our children but their dignity and spirit.

To quote British author C.S.Lewis, “There are better things ahead than any we
leave behind.”


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