The rate that children are being treated as adults in our criminal justice system has plummeted since State Attorney, Melissa Nelson, has taken over the office. According to an article in the Florida Times Union, the rate that minors are prosecuted as adults has fallen by forty three percent. The dramatic drop has been attributed to new policies instituted in the prosecutor’s office. Juvenile justice in Duval, Clay and Nassau Counties was a large part of Ms. Nelson’s platform when she ran for the office.
Prosecutors in the state of Florida have the discretion to charge a juvenile as an adult. If charged, the child faces the same punishment that an adult would facing the same criminal charges. If a child is found guilty in adult court, the sentencing judge could sentence the child to adult sanctions, such as sending the child to adult prison. In Florida, a boy can be housed among men if he was charged in adult court. Sentencing judges also have the option to impose juvenile sanctions, such as committing the child to a juvenile program. Regardless of the sentence, if convicted in adult court, the record will stay with the child for the rest of their life.
In order to treat the child as an adult, the state attorney’s office has to file a piece of paper with the court system. Once filed, there will be a capias (bench warrant) issued and the child will be arrested again. Often times, there will be an adult bond set on the charges, even if the child has been released by the Jacksonville juvenile court. The child will be taken to adult jail in Duval County, where there is a special wing for the children being treated as adults. If the family can, they will bond the child out while the case is pending in adult court. If not, the child will remain incarcerated in adult jail awaiting their fate.