Responses to the Epidemic
Pinellas County's response
Habitual Offendender Monitoring Enforcement
The county’s major response – well-funded, coordinated among nine agencies throughout the county, strong support of leaders – has been the Habitual Offender Monitoring Enforcement (HOME), which is led by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s office and St. Petersburg Police Department as part of a collaboration of nine different law enforcement agencies in Pinellas County. The purpose is for law enforcement to monitor the county’s most frequent youth re-offenders, regularly checking in unannounced.
Teens with a minimum of five felony arrests who are on probation are under intensive surveillance by law enforcement. A team of 16 officers and crime analysts from the nine agencies monitor youth who have a minimum of five felony arrests and have court-ordered home detention with an ankle monitor. Law enforcement works from a daily list of more than 100 youth, making random and frequent check-ups to see if the youth are where the GPS says they are.
It’s important to note the stated goal of HOME is not to re-arrest – in other words, HOME is not spying on kids to catch them doing something wrong so they can arrest them again. It’s just the opposite, with officers focused more on making sure youth are where they are supposed to be, such as honoring a curfew. Working with family and community members, not reaching for handcuffs, is their approach.
Additionally, HOME uses “social navigators” – trained social workers who work with youth in the HOME Program. The two social navigators, funded by the Juvenile Welfare Board, connect HOME youth and their families with needed social and healthcare services.
State of Florida's response
By 2016, it became apparent Florida had a growing teen auto theft problem, which had hit an epidemic level in Pinellas County. The State of Florida’s response essentially was two-fold: The Prolific Juvenile Offender Law and The Detention Risk Assessment Instrument.
Prolific Juvenile Offender Law
In 2017, the Florida Legislature passed the “Prolific Juvenile Offender” law to address juvenile repeat offenders, who were being released 30 days after each offense and in some cases reoffended immediately upon release. The law established a specific criteria, which if met would keep youth in detention until their case is resolved.
From the Florida Legislature’s Final Bill Analysis:
“To address recidivism occurring when a juvenile delinquent is returned to the community while new charges are pending or while the juvenile is awaiting placement in a residential program, the bill:
- Establishes criteria to identify a narrow class of repeat delinquents, referred to as “Prolific Juvenile Offenders,” who must be placed in nonsecure or secure detention until the disposition of their pending cases;
- Requires secure detention for a delinquent awaiting placement in a nonsecure residential program;
- Provides that nonsecure detention periods are tolled on the date a violation of detention is alleged; and
- Specifies that days served in any type of detention before a violation of detention do not count toward current law’s 21-day and 15-day detention limits, so that detention may be continued by the court after a violation.”
 Florida House of Representatives Final Bill Analysis. 2017. Available at: https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2017/7059/Analyses/h7059z1.CRJ.PDF
Detention Risk Assessment Instrament
The DRAI is the risk assessment tool utilized statewide that predicts the risk of re-offense of a juvenile. The DRAI is performed during the arrest process. In 2017, the DRAI was determined to be ineffective by underrepresenting the risk of juveniles to reoffend. In 2018, a statewide committee was formed and a new DRAI developed.
In late 2017, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice determined the DRAI needed updating:
“The current risk assessment tool, the Detention Risk Assessment Instrument, was never validated and has not succeeded in predicting risk of re-offense. There are many validated risk assessment tools for youth across the country. In December 2017, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice convened a Committee Assembly to evaluate and revise the DRAI.”
In 2018, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice issued the following statement about the new DRAI to be used statewide:
“The current DRAI was originally created more than 25 years ago and has not been updated since its inception. It was developed without the benefit of the latest statistical analysis techniques and risk-prediction methods that are increasingly common in juvenile and adult criminal justice settings. This created an urgency to assemble the statutorily required DRAI committee to assist in the decision to validate, design, and implement a new DRAI designed to improve public safety through accurate and reliable risk-prediction to ensure we are detaining the right youth in secure detention.
Beginning in mid-December, 2017, the DRAI Committee met four times to evaluate and approve and approve the implementation of a new DRAI utilizing comprehensive data and research completed by a national juvenile justice research team.”
 Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. 2017. DJJ Announces Meeting of the 2017 Detention Risk Assessment Instrument Committee Assembly. Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. Available at http://www.djj.state.fl.us/news/press-releases/press-release-detail/2017/12/05/djj-announces-meeting-of-the-2017-detention-risk-assessment-instrument-committee-assembly.
 Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. 2019. Detention Risk Assessment Instrument update. Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. Available at: http://www.djj.state.fl.us/research/latest-initiatives/detention-risk-assessment-instrument
4 Pinellas County Juvenile Diversion Services. 2019. Available at: http://jud6.org/ContactInformation/TeenCourtPinellas.html
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