TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A new law signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis updates a cost sharing plan for detention costs between Florida counties and the Department of Juvenile Justice, and permanently implements an accountability and support program within the DJJ.

The new law amends Florida’s Statues to retain a program called the “Accountability and Program Support” with the DJJ. The program was created in the previous fiscal year’s budget legislation.

Last year’s version of the program changed the name of the service from “Prevention and Victim Services” to “Prevention Services” because DJJ has not provided victim services for multiple years, according to the state legislature.

A DJJ spokesperson clarified the change further, telling 8 On Your Side that the Accountability and Program Support Program was already established under the Department’s support services, with the new law permanently establishing it in the Florida statutes.

The formal establishment of the program will allow the DJJ Secretary to assign an Assistant Secretary to manage the program and place more focus on “contracting and program oversight efforts.”

Additionally, the DJJ representative said the name of the program was “a separate issue” from the creation of the program, and that the bill “created a DJJ program of Accountability and Program Support and renamed the separate Office of Prevention and Victim Services to the Office of Prevention Services. This change was made in the implementing bill for FY 2020-21 but is made permanent” through HB 885.

The changes implemented by this year’s law, HB 885, include making requirements implemented in the previous fiscal year permanent for handling how children are taken into custody, court dates, and alternative consequences, by amending multiple state statutes, according to the DJJ.

The first set of changes adjusts child appearances at court and how to take a child into custody if they do not show up for their court date.

From the new law:, courts will be required to consider the following information when handling a child defendant’s failure to appear:

  • Before a court can issue an order to take a child into custody for failure to appear, it has to consider whether the absence was willful
  • Whether the notice was sent to the child’s address from the official court record
  • Whether anyone gave notice to the child in any format
  • Whether the child is represented by an attorney, and if that attorney has information about the willfulness of the nonappearance, or if it was beyond the child’s control
  • Whether a representative of the DJJ contacted, or attempted to contact, the child
  • Whether DJJ has other information to help the court decide to take the child into custody or not

DJJ says “HB 885 requires circuits to develop written plans in consultation with the DJJ, law enforcement, judges, state attorneys and public defenders that would specify the alternative consequence component.”

Going forward, each judicial circuit will be required to develop a written plan about alternative consequences, based on sanctions reflecting the seriousness of the violations and multiple other factors.

Those factors include:

  • The assessed criminogenic needs and risks of the child
  • The child’s age and maturity level
  • The effectiveness of the sanction or incentive for motivating the child to behave in compliance with the law

Alternative consequences and the written plan must be developed by the judicial circuit alongside judges, the state attorney, the public defender, the regional counsel, relevant law enforcement agencies, and the DJJ.

The law also repeals Florida Statute 985.686, which created a cost sharing plan between DJJ and Florida counties for detention of juveniles.

Now, the plan is controlled by a different statute to ensure that counties are not “fiscally constrained” and do not have to pay for all detention care costs.

Under the law, a representative from the DJJ says “Payment is calculated by multiplying the county’s percentage of detention day use by 50 percent of total detention care costs in the prior fiscal year. The Department is responsible for paying the remainder of detention costs. s. 985.686, F.S., and a portion of s. 985.6865, F.S., were obsolete and therefore were removed from FL statute under HB 885.”

Starting with Fiscal Year 2021-2022, the law says that the DJJ must consult with the Florida Department of Education and is authorized to evaluate alternative models for providing and funding education services for youths in detention and residential facilities. This change comes from the amendment of a Florida Statute, s. 1003.52.

The evaluation has to include material gathered through information requests, and must check the “viability” for the alternative models, as well as provide for assessments and direct educational services that include “special education, career and technical educational services, transition planning, educational program accountability standards, research-based best practices for educating justice-involved youth, and the recruitment, hiring and training of teachers.”

The law says the training and evaluation requirements included in the law expire June 1, 2022.