City council votes to pass resolution supporting juvenile justice reform

City council votes to pass resolution supporting juvenile justice reform

The state of Florida prosecutes more children as adults for criminal offenses than any other state. It's the message behind a resolution the Pensacola City Council voted on Thursday evening.

The goal of the resolution is to keep kids out of adult jails.

Paula Montgomery with the League of Women Voters is passionate about taking care of children even if they made mistakes.

For instance, a small crowd filled the Pensacola City Council chambers wearing blue shirts with the message "Kids don't belong in adult prison". The group hoped the council would support a resolution that asks state lawmakers to have children in this community treated as children when they break the law.

Franscine Mathis spoke to council members about a now 25-year-old man who was sent to prison when he was 15.

"The prison system has raised this young man, so what do you think is going to happen when he gets out? He's never seen a job, he's never seen a light bill, he's never seen a water bill, so what do we do with these kids when they get out?" Mathis asked.

According to the city council's resolution, Florida is one of only 13 states that allow children to be prosecuted as adults for criminal offenses.

More than 14,000 children have been prosecuted as adults in Florida of which 98 percent were prosecuted with no hearing, due process, oversight, or input from a judge.

It states 120 kids were transferred to adult court between 2016 and 2017 in the First Judicial Circuit, which is made up of Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties.

It is more than any other circuit in the state.

Montgomery said, "The message for the city council is there needs to be a change in the law. I want them to send a message to the legislature saying that it is not right."

The council voted 6 to 1 in favor of supporting the resolution.

District 1 Councilman P.C. Wu was the only dissenting vote.

Wu said he supports children but this resolution deal in an area the council has no right to be in.

Supporters are happy they're sending a message to lawmakers that rehab is the answer, not jail.

There are currently two bills, one in the Senate and one in the House, making their way through the Florida legislature dealing with juvenile justice reform.

Supporters hope this resolution helps move the bills forward.

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