The TaxWatch Research Blog

The TaxWatch Research Blog is a forum where our research staff can address topics and issues in a short format. Keep an eye on this space during Legislative Session for frequent posts making sense of the activity at the Capitol. 

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Citation Today, Jail Tomorrow

“Traditional” sanctions that keep offenders behind bars have cost the U.S. and its taxpayers millions, despite limited returns on investment regarding public safety.  Recognizing this, many states have implemented alternative sanctions that focus on reserving prison beds for dangerous offenders and prioritizing treatment for lower-level offenders.

Florida is no different.  The Sunshine State has utilized a number of diversion sanctions meant to prevent certain populations of adult offenders from costly incarceration, particularly juveniles.  Florida’s juvenile civil citation program now allows misdemeanant juveniles to receive treatment or other alternatives in lieu of incarceration.  While similar to adult alternatives, juveniles’ options differ in one key way: they don’t create an arrest record.  The day someone turns 18, that changes.

When an adult is diverted, his or her original arrest still exists and can pop up on everything from a google search, to a background check for a school or job application.  These records afford the public a measure of safety in some cases, but can cast the subject of inquiry in an unfair light.  Not all arrests are the mark a hardened criminal.  Possession of alcohol under age 21 (also called a minor in possession, or “MIP”), for example, is a second degree misdemeanor and can land you not only an arrest, but up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Understanding this, DISC Village and the Civil Citation Network  implemented an adult civil citation program in Leon County that serves local adult misdemeanants, prevents the creation of an arrest record, and saves taxpayer dollars by paying for itself.  Adults convicted of misdemeanors like MIPs, trespassing, or possession marijuana are all eligible for the program, which can include everything from community service to drug screenings and treatment.  As of August 2015, rates of rearrest for Floridians who had completed the program was just 6 percent statewide, a low number even when compared to other adult diversion programs like pretrial release (15 percent).  Despite the impressive outcomes seen in participants, as well as the potential for significant cost-savings due to the self-sustaining nature of the model, adult civil citation has yet to be expanded statewide

To learn more about what adult civil citation means for the state of Florida, read our briefing here.  For more about the Leon County adult civil citation program, click here.

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