The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) announced on Tuesday that Florida arrests reached a 46-year low in 2021, down 51 percent in the past five years, largely due in part to new subsidized programs and educational programs.
Despite rising crime rates across the nation, overall juvenile arrests statewide declined 30 percent with felony juvenile arrests decreasing by 22 percent, while misdemeanor juvenile arrests have also declined by 32 percent.
“The accomplishments achieved this year by the DJJ, our providers, our law enforcement partners, and community partners demonstrate our shared commitment to enhancing Florida’s juvenile justice system, said DJJ Secretary Eric Hall. “Through the leadership and dedication of Governor Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis, DJJ will continue to improve the services we provide to Florida’s youth at every level of the system to ensure stronger families and safer communities.”
Depressed arrest numbers continue an ongoing trend for Florida, with 2021’s statistics marking consecutive years that law enforcement has registered a new low in teen arrests. Overall juvenile arrests declined 17 percent statewide in 2020, and felony juvenile arrests declined 16 percent, showing an overall five-year decline of 35 percent.
The report analyzing the five-year period reports a 58 percent decrease in felony drug arrests, a 46 percent decline in grand larceny arrests, and a 21 percent decrease in overall misdemeanor arrests for that time.
The Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation, the direct-support organization for the Florida DJJ, and the Florida Prepaid College Foundation partnered together this year to provide $20,000 in higher education scholarships to juvenile justice-involved youth. The program focused efforts on low-income students who are at a higher risk of dropping out of school and prepares them to attend and succeed in college.
DeSantis, in his proposed state education budget for the upcoming fiscal year, seeks to allocate hundreds of millions of dollars toward mental health resources in Florida’s schools. A study conducted in 2018 links the presence of mental health counseling services in schools to depressed youth crime numbers.
“In 2016, more than 7.5 million people were likely facing one of the common mental illnesses: major depression, bipolar disorder, alcohol use disorders, or social phobia. The same report also reveals that more than 900,000 adolescents ages 13 to 19 lived with a mental health problem or illness,” the study states. “The purpose of this report is to examine the knowledge concerning youth suffering from mental health disorders and their involvement in crime, with a particular interest in the age group 12-24.”
Florida’s DJJ also implemented equine therapy this year at a juvenile residential commitment program in Ocala, allowing residential youth the ability to undertake therapeutic activity using retired Thoroughbred racehorses. The program was considered a success and may expand to involve additional rehabilitation centers throughout the state.