It is a common misconception that sentences for juvenile offenders are lenient. A defendant will not get a slap on the wrist simply due to their age.
In Florida, juvenile commitment is referred to as a “program.” There are four different levels of restrictiveness: minimum-risk nonresidential, non-secure residential, high-risk residential, and maximum-risk residential.
The three residential levels are similar to adult jail or prison. There are 42 facilities in Florida offering services for non-secure, high-risk, and maximum-risk juveniles. All programs are provided by private contractors and overseen by the Department of Juvenile Justice. The facility a child is placed in depends on their gender, age, and program level, so there is no guarantee that they will be assigned to a facility close to your home.
If your child has a previous record or has been accused of a serious crime involving a firearm or sexual misconduct, there is a strong possibility of some form of residential commitment. For the Fiscal Year 2019-20, there were 3,388 youth placed in residential commitment programs across the state. Hiring a skilled criminal defense attorney is your best option for protecting your child’s rights and reducing the negative consequences associated with the charge.
The lowest level of commitment is minimum-risk nonresidential, which allows your child to stay home with you while they complete their treatment program. Essentially, you are serving as your child’s probation officer and given the responsibility of ensuring your son or daughter completes the requirements outlined by the court.
If your child is in the minimum-risk nonresidential program, they will participate in a day treatment program for at least five days per week. Aside from the day treatment program, they will be allowed to move freely within the community.
To be eligible for this program, your child must represent a minimum risk to themselves and public safety. Your child is not eligible for this program if they have committed a crime that would be a life felony or first-degree felony for an adult. Crimes involving firearms or sexual offenses will also disqualify a juvenile offender from the minimum-risk nonresidential program.
This is the lowest level of jail-style commitment for juvenile offenders. The facility is secured by locking doors, fencing, or guards.
All juveniles in the non-secure residential program have 24-hour supervision and treatment plans designed to fit their individual rehabilitative needs. This may include mental health care, substance abuse treatment, parenting classes, education, or job training. Juveniles in this program level have access to the community only when they are supervised by a staff member.
A child placed in this program level is considered a low or moderate risk to the community. However, children may be secluded if they are determined to be a physical threat to themselves or others and mechanical restraints may be used when the staff determines they are appropriate.
High-risk residential facilities have perimeter fencing and locking doors. As with the non-secure residential program, children may be secluded if they are determined to be a threat to themselves or others. Restraints may be used as needed.
Juveniles in a high-risk residential program are not allowed interaction with the community. However, those who are compliant during their stay may receive passes for up to 72 hours for family emergencies, enrollment in an approved education program, a job interview, or community service.
Children placed in this program level are determined to be in need of close supervision in a structured residential setting. There is also a concern for public safety that the judge believes outweighs placement at a lower commitment level.
Maximum-risk residential is the most restrictive program for a juvenile offender and thus most like an adult prison. The facilities are hardware-secure with perimeter security fencing and locking doors. Cells are single occupancy, except when youth are being housed together for prerelease transition. Restraints are used as needed.
At the maximum-risk residential level, juveniles have no access to the community and receive 24/7 supervision, custody, care, and rehabilitative treatment. Placement at this level means a youth is determined to pose a significant risk to public safety. Most often, children in this level have committed serious violent crimes.
Compared to the lower levels, maximum-risk residential programs have the highest average length of stay. Youth at this level of commitment stay an average of 645.2 days, while youth in high-risk residential programs stay an average of 346.9 days and those in nonsecure residential programs stay an average of 228.9 days.
Contact an Okaloosa County Juvenile Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one have been charged with a juvenile offense in Okaloosa County, call Flaherty & Merrifield today at (850) 403-6835 for a free consultation.