Palm Beach juvenile justice program shines

Youth arrests are way down in the home county of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, thanks to a novel system of civil citations.

Here’s how it works: when kids are picked-up for a first time, non-violent misdemeanor, they get a choice. They can either accept arrest, or avoid charges by admitting guilt, performing community service, and finishing other requirements (e.g. a drug test or an apology letter).

The voluntary program is actually due to state legislation, but Palm Beach County has been particularly active — leading to a 31 percent drop in youth arrests between the 2011-2012 and 2015-2016 fiscal years, according to the Sun Sentinel. Broward and Miami-Dade counties are also funneling a high number of eligible kids through this alternate project.

Local advocates like People Engaged in Active Community Efforts (PEACE) want to see the program expanded, to become mandatory across Florida for 11 first time offenses such as retail theft and alcohol possession.

“What we’re trying to do is to make sure those small misdemeanor type of actions do not result in arrest records because arrest records will basically follow that juvenile for the rest of their life,” PEACE vice president and baptist pastor Robert Rease told the Sun Sentinel. “It will impact the type of jobs they will get, as well as whether or not they can earn scholarships or go into the military.”

I am always encouraged to see creative, new ideas yielding positive results. Looking back on the Worst Campaign Ever, one thing that I think is clear is how dark the consequences of a dwindling middle class can look. Reforming our juvenile justice system is one way to chip away at that problem. So I’m hoping that this program will keep gaining momentum. And I’m doubly hopeful that DT will learn something from what’s happening in his backyard.



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