TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - Lawmakers and criminal justice reform advocates gathered at the state capitol Tuesday, calling on lawmakers to stop prosecutors from charging children as adults in Florida.
According to the group “No Place For a Child”, Florida tries more kids in adult court than any other state. Many of these offenses are for non-violent crimes like stealing a car or breaking into an unoccupied home.
Senate bill sponsor Bobby Powell says the ability to charge a child as an adult will still be available under his bill, but the option should be reserved for the worst of the worst.
“What has happened is that we have stigmatized many of our young people by making sure that they have these criminal charges at such an early age," said Sen. Powell. "They are not able to participate in the economy.”
24-year-old Miguel Rodriguez of Tampa was arrested at age 15 for vandalizing a vacant house and he was charged as an adult. Thus, when he broke curfew at age 20, he was sent to prison for three years.
“Because I was charged as an adult, it made everything all the worse," said Rodriguez. "I was a first-time, nonviolent offender, the first time I’d ever been arrested in my life, the only time I’ve ever been arrested in my life, and it took the next nine years of my life.”
Both the House and Senate bills were filed last month, in advance of the 2018 session which starts in January. So far, neither bill has been heard by any legislative committee.