Even the remnants of Patricia, the strongest hurricane in recorded history, could not stop an overflow crowd from assembling at Franco’s Italian Restaurant to participate in the School to Prison Pipeline Forum held on Monday, October 26th. The panelists for the forum were Kelly Richards, Circuit 1 Public Defenders Office; Marjorie Anders, Circuit 1 State Attorney Office, Juvenile Division; Greg Marcille, Circuit 1 State Attorney Office; Rev. Rick Branch, First United Methodist Church and Founding member of the Escambia Youth Justice Coalition; Spencer Wease, Youth Tried as an Adult and Pathways for Change; and Tania Galloni, Managing Attorney, Southern Poverty Law Center.
Documentation of the present system was sent out to the public quoting Tonia Galloni, Managing Attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center who stated, “Irrationally harsh juvenile discipline is a hallmark of Escambia County. It’s not unrelated to the sad, sick fact that Florida sends more children, especially minorities, to adult court than any other state”. She was also quoted as saying, “In 2013-14, Escambia County prosecutors transferred 70 children to adult court. This is the same number of children that were ‘direct filed’ in Orange County, with a youth population five times the size” (of Escambia County). The forum educated the audience that ‘direct filed’ means that Florida State Prosecutors ability to bypass judges and make the decision to send juveniles to adult prison.
Keyontay Humphries, Regional Organizer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northwest Florida, gave an introduction to a powerful video of Hank Cox, a former State Attorney in Jacksonville, who advocates for the change in the law. Humphries also gave an update to the present status of the bills moving through the Florida Legislature in both the Senate and the House. She reported that Senator Evers, Chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, will be holding a hearing on the bill to change the law on Monday November 2nd in Tallahassee.
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