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Is Florida’s prosecutor too tough on crime?

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What do you do with a violent juvenile who tells his pregnant mother in court he’s going to kick the baby out of her stomach?

Or a 14 year old who’s already committed two gun crimes?

angela corey
Florida State Attorney Angela Corey
Photo courtesy of Watchdog

State Attorney Angela Corey said the answer is simple: treat some juvenile offenders like adults and lock ‘em up.

“Some of these kids — we call them children — legally we have to call them a child when they’re in the juvenile system, are bigger than anyone in this room and meaner than any person you’ve ever come across. It’s alarming,” she said Wednesday in a Tallahassee debate.

Corey, a Jacksonville area elected official, gained national notoriety as the special prosecutor in the George Zimmerman murder trial.

She said Wednesday that violent crime is on the rise among juvenile females and children under age 16.

But the wild-eyed lock ‘em up approach to criminal justice casts too wide a net, especially when throwing juveniles into the mix, according to Vikrant Reddy, a policy analyst for the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation. That’s made the system too expensive both morally and economically, he stated.

“It’s important to incapacitate some offenders,” Reddy said, “but heavy handed incarceration and lockups have proven counter productive.”

While it may seem risky for a conservative group to appear soft on crime, TPPF said it’s really being smart on crime.

The group is pushing a national initiative called Right on Crime and aims to encourage lawmakers to drain bloated state corrections budgets while still maintaining tough penalties for dangerous criminals.

“We need to hold government accountable and make sure government is transparent on all levels, not just health care and education, but also corrections,” Reddy said.

According to ROC, corrections spending has expanded to become the second fastest growing area of state budgets — trailing only Medicaid. Criminal law should not be used to grow government, the group states.

In total, criminal justice spending in Florida is the state’s fourth largest expense behind health care, education and transportation. State juvenile justice services — a sliver of the total spending — received more than half a billion dollars this year.

Conservative heavyweights like Jeb Bush, Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed support the group’s efforts, as do many other lawmakers, scholars and religious figures.

Corey said limiting law enforcement budgets is wrong because the price of a safe community is incalculable.

She blames parents and the breakdown of society for violent youths, and believes the government can help kids by making them toe the line.

“The kids we are dealing with today aren’t afraid of anybody and, by and large, don’t respect anybody,” Corey said. ”Put juveniles in adult court and give judges the option to issue juvenile sanctions.”

Published with permission from Watchdog.org.

Contact William Patrick at [email protected].

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