Jacques files bill enhancing education for youth exiting juvenile justice system

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (FLV) – Florida Rep. Berny Jacques, R-Largo, filed HB 939 Thursday, aiming to bolster education for Floridians in the youth justice system.

The bill would expand the Department of Juvenile Justice’s “educational scope” via the creation of the Florida Scholars Academy. The department is headed by Secretary Eric Hall.

It would include $12 million in funding to enact a “streamlined approach to educating vulnerable youth within the system.”

“As a former prosecutor who had to hold countless amounts of young people accountable when they broke the law, I know that education can be part of an early intervention strategy that will prevent them from getting into a life of crime,” Jacques said. “This program will create a customized system of learning for our youth in DJJ to prepare them for a life where they are productive law-abiding citizens.”

The program creates a uniform education system within the department’s residential commitment programs, which are designed to “rehabilitate offenders.”

A press release said the law would combat recidivism – the tendency of someone to break the law after being released – by preparing the youth to become “productive members of society.”

“The best public safety strategy at our disposal is ensuring students in a DJJ residential program are provided a high- quality education to reduce recidivism and ensure their future success,” Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Eric Hall said. “Florida is a national leader in educational and juvenile justice enhancement, and this transformative legislation will continue to set Florida apart from the rest of the nation.”

“We are honored to have the support of Representative Jacques to successfully create the Florida Scholars Academy to enhance public safety through high-quality and effective services made available to students and their families, and we look forward to working with our partners in the Florida Legislature to build a stronger, safer Florida,” he said.

Jacque’s announcement said youth entering the juvenile justice system are “often two or three grade levels behind in math and reading.”

“Addressing these challenges and helping these youth find a purpose will lead to better lives for these young people, reduce recidivism, and make for safer communities,” it said.