March 26, 2019

House Criminal
Justice Subcommittee

My name is Jesse Kelley, and I am the Government Affairs
Specialist for the R Street Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy
research organization. Our mission is to engage in policy research and outreach
to promote free markets and limited, effective government in many areas,
including juvenile justice reform, which is why HB 575 is of special interest
to us.

Due to Florida’s current direct-file statute, prosecutors
have too much power over which children stay in juvenile court and which are
transferred to the adult system, and there is no minimum age for transferring a
child to adult court. Sadly, most children tried in adult court are there for
nonviolent offenses.

The R Street Institute strongly supports limiting the use of
direct-file, because the adult system is simply ill-equipped to serve young

Trying children in the adult system often results in
negative future outcomes for the children involved and decreases public safety
overall. This is because children in adult facilities are extremely vulnerable
to physical and sexual abuse, isolated, and deprived of developmentally
appropriate rehabilitative services. When children are put at risk in this
manner and fail to receive proper services, they become more likely to commit
crimes as adults.

In contrast, most youth in the juvenile justice system will not
offend as an adult. By sending children to the adult system, the state of
Florida is actually creating more crime.

While we acknowledge that serious offenses committed by
young people can have significant consequences for victims and that the state
has a duty to ensure accountability, it is equally important that the state
address its responsibility to avoid permanently harming the development and
rehabilitation of minors. Ultimately, nearly all justice-involved youth will
eventually return to their communities, and the justice system needs to equip
them with the skills required to successfully re-enter society.

In those rare cases where minors commit violent crimes, a
grand jury indictment or waiver would still be possible. However, right now the
use of direct-file accounts for 98 percent of children that end up in the adult
system.[1] The R Street Institute
stands in support of limiting direct-file while simultaneously believing that
young people should be held accountable.

For these and other reasons, we support the advancement of
HB 575 and present ourselves available for additional questions.

Thank you for your consideration.

Jesse Kelley, Esq.
Government Affairs Specialist, Criminal Justice Policy
R Street Institute

[email protected]

Kevin Huguelet. “Florida’s Direct File
Law: How State Attorneys Hold Too Much Power.” University of Miami Law Review.
Volume 72, Issue 4. June 30, 2018.

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