Governor Scott Signs DJJ Reform Bill, Announces Interim Secretary

Today, Governor Rick Scott signed into law HB 7055, the Department of Juvenile Justice’s priority bill, which is a comprehensive and expansive piece of legislation that codifies the principles and recent reform efforts that have directly contributed to lower juvenile recidivism rates and therefore a safer and more cost efficient Florida. HB 7055 was unanimously passed by the Florida Legislature this past legislative session.

In the signing ceremony, Governor Scott also praised the work of Secretary Wansley Walters and announced Christy Daly will be the Interim Secretary following Secretary Walters’ retirement later this month. Ms. Daly has held leadership positions for the past seven years at the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice as the Deputy Secretary, Chief of Staff, Legislative Director, and the External Affairs Director. As Deputy Secretary, Ms. Daly oversees the operations of the entire continuum of service delivery.

Governor Scott said, “I am proud to sign this bill today that emphasizes prevention services and trauma informed care, both of which will help us continue the recent success of the Department that has driven delinquency rates down to the lowest levels in 30 years. Secretary Walters has been a trailblazer in our efforts to emphasize prevention services that support Florida children. She has successfully led the Department of Juvenile Justice for more than three years during which she launched the Roadmap to System Excellence among other efforts to transform the juvenile justice system. Secretary Walters and her team have done excellent work and I’m confident Christy will build on Wansley’s success.”

DJJ Secretary Wansley Walters said, “I am grateful to Governor Scott for approving this critical piece of legislation today. His leadership along with the dedication of the Legislature in passing juvenile justice reform will allow Florida’s youth the chance they deserve to turn their lives around, and I am thrilled that Christy Daly is being named Interim Secretary. She has been a driving force behind the reforms that have taken place thus far and she has the vision and passion to make this the best system in the U.S.”

Deputy Secretary Christy Daly said, “I am honored and humbled that Governor Scott has entrusted me to lead this agency and continue the reforms he launched 3 1/2 years ago. DJJ is an agency of committed staff who work tirelessly every day to better the lives of children and families while keeping communities safe. I am proud of the significant strides we have made and look forward to continuing Secretary Walters’ vision of a national model for juvenile justice.”

HB 7055 amends a variety of statutes in Ch. 985, Florida Statutes, relating to the Department of Juvenile Justice, its duties, and its programs. Specifically, the bill places in Florida statute the importance and mission of prevention within DJJ. Preventing youth from entering or going deeper into the juvenile justice system is a core function of DJJ and critical to minimizing the presence of juvenile crime.

“We must do better at preventing youth from entering the juvenile justice system,” added Secretary Walters. “And, for those who do enter the system, from delving deeper. Prevention has become a critical component of DJJ’s operations, and in recent years we have seen a shift of funding to prevention – made possible through savings achieved from decreased reliance on residential commitment.”

In addition, this legislation changes statute to place the emphasis on individualized services for rehabilitation while continuing to ensure public safety. HB 7055 also provides increased victim protections under the law. Passing HB 7055 was a collaborative effort among DJJ and major stakeholders like the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association, the Florida Sheriffs Association, the Florida Police Chiefs Association and the Florida Public Defenders Association.

State Senator Robert Bradley said, “Crime rates in the state of Florida, including juvenile crime rates, continue to decrease. Legislation such as the revision of the juvenile justice statute will continue that downward trend by providing the right services to our youth, not only to prevent them from offending but to also rehabilitate and care for those that have entered the system. As the sponsor of the Senate companion bill to HB 7055, I am proud this bill passed and know these changes will continue to contribute to the decrease in the number of juvenile offenders in our state, thus ensuring safer communities overall.”

State Representative Ray Pilon said, “As a strong advocate on ways to keep young offenders from becoming more serious criminals, I am excited that HB 7055 was able to pass this legislative session. As a sponsor of the bill, along with my colleagues on the Judiciary Committee, Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, and Criminal Justice Subcommittee, I am proud we were able to pass commonsense solutions to reducing juvenile recidivism while being good stewards of taxpayer dollars.

Cathy Craig-Myers, Executive Director, Florida Juvenile Justice Association said, “In order for Florida’s juvenile justice system to be effective, it takes a comprehensive and collaborative approach. The revision of the juvenile justice statutes achieved through the efforts of DJJ and its stakeholder partners. This important revision, which includes the expansion of prevention and intervention services, alternatives to detention, and the enhancements in career and technical education, codifies what recent DJJ reform efforts have achieved in reducing juvenile recidivism rates.”

Mary Marx, President and CEO, PACE Center for Girls said, “Over 25% of girls come to PACE with prior involvement in the juvenile justice system and 76% are considered high risk for justice system involvement. Preventing girls from entering the juvenile justice system is an important goal at PACE. I am thankful to see the passage of HB 7055 which places a focus on gender-specific prevention services to stem the tide of girls entering the juvenile justice system.”

Alan F. Abramowitz, Executive Director, Florida Guardian ad Litem said, “The Guardian ad Litem Program’s sole mission is to advocate for the best interests of the child. The passage of this legislation places the emphasis further on care and prevention service of Florida’s youth in order to achieve the most safe and positive outcomes for them.”

Stacy Gromatski, President and CEO, Florida Network of Youth and Family Services said, “Community programs and prevention services are imperative to addressing the needs of at-risk youth and their families. We are grateful that this legislation now addresses the importance of prevention in Florida Statute. Prevention and early intervention services are powerful, not only in keeping young people from committing crimes and families from being unsafe, but as catalysts for youth to realize their full potential and make a successful transition to adulthood.

 

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