A civil citation program for juvenile offenders has been so successful; police in Tallahassee are expanding it to adult misdemeanor offenders. Statewide, of 8,000 juveniles given a citation and treatment instead of a record, only 7% reoffended in a first year. The Smart Justice program is backed by business interests.
"If it's substance abuse. If it's mental health or it's a little bit of both. If it's anger management or just poor decision making you're going to have to go through a program," said business lobbyist Barney Bishop.
Florida now spends over two billion dollars a year on prisons.
If people aren't coming to a courtroom, then they're not going to jail and statewide that could save tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars.
Tom Olk has worked with the juvenile citation program for 17 years, watching it grow from a local initiative to a national model. He says there is no reason for it not to work with adults. "Well at least another 20 to 30 percent of people who are being arrested could easily be diverted get the services they need and not have a lifelong mark on their record".
State Attorney Willie Meggs isn’t so sure. He backs the effort, but isn’t certain that it will be as successful as it has been for juveniles. "Most of these people are going to be young people that have done something incredibly stupid that can cause them to be in the system".
The citation program gives police one more option to their current two choices of letting someone go or arresting them.
Neither Florida A&M or Florida State University Police have signed off on the civil citation program.