When it comes to second chances, a bill related to expunging juvenile arrest records is back before the governor for a second chance at becoming law.
Last year Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis crushed the hopes of many juveniles hoping for a shot to clean up and eliminate their arrest records after completing diversion programs. Despite bipartisan support, DeSantis felt young offenders should not be in those programs if they committed serious crimes.
Christian Minor, executive director of the Florida Juvenile Justice Association, speaking on The Rotunda podcast, shared how he spent the year working with stakeholders to ease their concerns.
“Bounced a lot of the language off of the governor’s staff, and working with our law-enforcement partners, together to get this thing to the finish line,” Minor recounted. “I think our chances are fairly high that Gov. DeSantis will go ahead and sign it.”
Currently, most of the diversion programs, which help keeps troubled youths out of prisons, involve misdemeanors, with certain felonies allowed. This year’s bill excludes “forcible felonies,” such as murder or sexual battery.
Minor pointed out many juveniles who have turned their lives around and complete diversion programs are often held back by dismissed felonies because the arrest still shows on their records. Minor added it restricts juveniles from getting scholarships and gainful employment through the military and even law enforcement.
“When I look at this piece of legislation, I look at it as perhaps the more monumental piece of workforce development that this legislature has passed in the last decade,” Minor remarked.
Groups supporting the governor’s veto last year included the Florida Police Chiefs Association. The executive director now said they were “pleased to see that issue addressed in this year’s bill.”
According to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, a total of 45,423 juveniles were arrested in Florida in 2019 and 2020.
Most involved Black youths, with 50.9% compared with 32.4 % for white youths, and 16.2 % of youth arrests were among Hispanics.