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Activists speak out against Florida juvenile prisons

For any person accused and convicted of a crime, time served in prison can be difficult. Not only is prison time unpleasant, but it also brings consequences that could infiltrate all areas of an individual's life. This is especially true for young men and women who are convicted of crimes in their teenage years and must live with such experiences and records for the rest of their lives.

Some activists are speaking out against certain aspects of the Florida juvenile justice system. Specifically, activists point to privatized juvenile prisons. The prisons are run by private companies that contract with the state. One company manages contracts that exceed $100 million and represent about 10 percent of the juvenile prison system. A juvenile judge has even referred to one of the private juvenile prisons as "evil" and "third-world."

A recent report indicates that 40 percent of juvenile offenders who spend time in the state's prison system commit another crime within one year of release. Critics of the private prison system say it plays some role in the high rate of recidivism among Florida youth offenders.

One civil rights group has called for the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice to cancel private prison contracts. One company's contracts, which total $120 million, expire in July. The group is calling for state officials not to renew expired contracts with such organizations. A spokesperson for the Human Rights Defense Center in Florida said the private companies cut corners to reduce costs at the expense of youth inmates.

Florida would not be the first state to cut support for private prisons. Four other states did so in 2013. For juveniles currently in the system or accused of a crime, however, the future acts of Florida state agencies may be of little immediate importance. Though working to reform prisons is important, the aim of each individual criminal defense is to reduce time in prison or avoid it altogether.

Source: CL Tampa Bay, "Activist group wants Florida to end for-profit youth prisons," Mitch Perry, June 10, 2014

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