CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Study Finds Florida Juvenile System is Harsher on Girls than Boys

From Florida's juvenile-justice system locks up a higher percentage of underage girls than 46 other states, hands out stiffer punishment to girls than boys and doesn't provide the kind of treatment girls need, according to a National Council on Crime and Delinquency study released Tuesday.

Researchers interviewed 319 Florida girls in juvenile programs. They found:

  • 49 percent were self-mutilators.
  • 34 percent had attempted suicide.
  • 35 percent were pregnant or had been.
  • 46 percent had an alcohol or substance-abuse problem.

Those problems are at the root of many of the girls' crimes. In contrast, boys more frequently broke the law because of peer pressure or gang activity, Council President Krisberg said. The report concluded that Florida locks up too many girls -- 172 out of every 100,000 girls between the ages of 10 to 18 during 2003 -- when it should, instead, place some in home- or community-based programs.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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I am writing this letter in regard to my granddaughter, Samantha Cannova.

Samantha has spent the majority of the past three years locked up in the detention center on Bell Avenue in St. Lucie County and Desoto Correctional Institute and Lutz Academy. She is currently awaiting placement in a Level 8 program in Monticello Florida. She just turned 18 and has spent the better part of the past three years locked up. You may wonder what violent crime she committed to cause this expense to the tax payers. The fact is that she stole her mother’s car when she was 15. In addition to this her relationship with her mother caused her mother to constantly call the police to have them arrest her when she was unable to control Sammi Jo. Sammi Jo was no angel but she has a lot of good in her and a lot of hurt trying to get out.

I had Sammi Jo released to me when she first came home from Desoto and after six weeks I couldn’t do it any more. Unfortunately, when I look back, I became so concerned that she would do something wrong that I truly made my home another lock up for her. I would not let her out of my sight and of course that couldn’t work. She had been incarcerated for a long time and she was a teenager.

I truly believe that part of the problem when the children are released from these facilities is that they are returned to their families where their problems originated. She was placed with Eckerd Reentry Program and truly that was a disaster. One supervisor ran down a neighbor’s mail box with Sammi Jo and another girl in it and refused to stop when someone pointed it out. They also put her together with her ex-boyfriend, the one who she used drugs with; at one of their programs and that is how she ended up back in the first time. Currently she sees him on Bell Avenue once a week at the socialization between male and female inmates.

One wonders why some type of half-way house system is not developed for these juveniles instead of putting them back in the original environment that fostered the problem to start with. The amount of money used to keep these children locked up would be better spent on homes that they could try to foster independence and self-esteem. And no, it would not work for all of them but I am sure we might do better than we are now.

I have worked in probation and know convicted felons who have not spent the amount of time behind bars that the juveniles do. It doesn’t make sense. There must be an answer somewhere and we haven’t found it yet. We are teaching these youngsters to become institutionalized. Why? I am sure she is not the only teenager who has been in this situation.

I hope that someone would look into the situation that we have going on with the juvenile justice system and try to come up with a better plan.

Eileen P. Schmidt
360 Palms Avenue
Fort Pierce, FL 34982
(772) 489-4529

Posted by: Eileen P. Schmidt | Sep 28, 2006 1:45:27 PM

Hi, I'm writing in regards to your post. I have a website that was directed to me regarding my juvenile son. Maybe this will help you and that you will support the lady who is diligently working with this.

Posted by: Laurie | Jan 22, 2007 12:07:34 AM

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