U.S. Attorney’s Office Joins The Florida Department Of Juvenile Justice And The Florida Youth Justice Commission To Launch The Florida Race Equity Challenge
(STL.News) – The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida has joined with the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and other Florida Youth Justice Commission partners to launch the Florida Race Equity Challenge. The Florida Race Equity Challenge is a web-based, interactive experience that will provide juvenile justice stakeholders with the education and tools to identify and tackle issues related to race, equity, and inclusion (REI) within the juvenile justice system. The statewide, team-based project extends from June through December 2020.
Over the course of several months, teams will participate in live webinars, complete tasks, and ultimately submit proposals for systematic changes designed to create more equitable outcomes for youth. Topics to be covered include implicit bias, assessing race equity in policies, and utilizing data in decision-making. Teams include representatives from Florida’s schools, courts, law enforcement, community partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida (USAO-MDFL).
In 1997, the USAO-MDFL officially formed a Hate Crimes Working Group, in response to African American church arsons that were occurring across the southeastern United States. Since, the group has addressed a plethora of issues and concerns affecting protected classes. In May 2015, the group – renamed the “Civil Rights Working Group” – continued to expand its focus by collaborating with local, state, federal, and community stakeholders throughout the district to address broader issues and concerns, including criminal and civil matters, enhanced training for law enforcement/public safety personnel and educators, developing and facilitating opportunities for civil discourse, and providing tools, resources and best practices to advance civil and human rights protections.
“The duty to protect and serve all citizens is paramount to our public mission,” said U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez. “ As we seek to improve the quality of life within our communities, we must entreat greater accountability and responsibility from everyone involved. Our team is proud to join with and support our state and local partners in this effort to gain a better understanding and improve equity among diverse groups and communities throughout the state of Florida. We look forward to participating in this Challenge and promoting justice for all.”
“Florida’s juvenile justice system has implemented significant reforms designed to better match youth with services and to prevent them from moving deeper into the system while still holding them accountable for their actions. While we’ve seen a downward trend in juvenile arrests across the state, we haven’t seen a similar trend in the overrepresentation of youth of color in the juvenile justice system,” said DJJ Secretary Simone Marstiller. “We have an obligation, as a system and community, to come together to address this important issue and affect meaningful change.”
The Florida Youth Justice Commission is a partnership established to promote continuous juvenile justice system improvement using the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI) strategies. One of these strategies is improving racial and ethnic equity with a focus on eliminating bias and creating a level playing field for youth of color. Along with the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, other Florida Youth Justice Commission partners include the Department of Children and Families, Florida Association of District School Superintendents, the Office of State Courts Administrator, Guardian Ad Litem, members of law enforcement, prosecutors and defense attorneys. DJJ staff help to coordinate the efforts of the commission both at the local and state level and created the concept and programming for the Florida Race Equity Challenge.