Tampa Bay area sheriffs: Juvenile justice system is broken

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TAMPA BAY, Fla. (WFLA) — The sheriff’s offices in Hernando and Pinellas Counties say they are dealing with a broken juvenile justice system.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis agree the system needs to make sure they don’t punish the so-called prolific offenders the same way they punish someone who many have just one run-in with the law.

Not even three weeks ago, six teens were involved in a stolen car crash in Pinellas County that left three of them dead. Last year, three other Florida teens were found dead in a stolen car. The teens involved in both crashes had criminal histories.

“So you have high recidivism among a small group and the reason why it’s happening is because when there’s no consequence, there’s no fear of consequence. And when there’s no fear of consequence, this is what you have,” Sheriff Gualtieri said.

He blames the system.

“The system needs to do a better job of differentiating between the kids who veer off the track a little bit, get outside the rails a little bit, and these prolific offenders,” he said.

Sheriff Nienhuis says these days, kids aren’t getting the message and the system is outdated.

“It’s meant for those kids that steal a candy bar or maybe those kids that after prom steal a car and go joyriding and they learn their lessons,” Sheriff Nienhuis said.

“We have to do a better job of coming together in a collaborative way and everybody working together,” Sheriff Gualtieri said. “It requires law enforcement, the community and parents being parents.”

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