Draconian punishments, “throwing the book at them” and other strong-arm tactics have often been the approach to alleged criminals including juvenile suspects. But in Orlando and throughout Orange County, a new approach is emerging. In fact, the trend of helping alleged criminals avoid a life of crime is making an impact throughout the nation. In some cities, alleged gang members are offered money to stay out of trouble. In others, suspected criminals are offered free or preferred pricing on education, job training and other social services if they keep their records clean. Proponents argue that these are the types of approaches necessary to curb crime and help all individuals achieve their potential even if they have criminal backgrounds.
In Florida, law enforcement officials are being encouraged to offer first-time juvenile offenders civil citations rather than arresting them. Time after time, evidence has shown that once a juvenile is arrested and is forced into the penal system, they often continue with a lifestyle that involves crime and re-arrest. The new approach offers a warning and recidivism rates have dropped dramatically. While this humane approach is showing signs of promise, the experiment is in its early stages here and throughout the nation. Proponents will be watching closely.