ICARE* Justice Ministry Report
By Ken Christiansen
Two years ago ICARE and its 10 sister Church Based Community Organizations in Florida achieved the passage of a state law requiring police officers to issue Civil Citations rather than arresting youths for a list of twelve common youthful offenses. In late June I was one of about 45 participants in a statewide Zoom meeting with the States Attorney of Volusia County. The Volusia County based FAITH organization (Fighting Against Injustice Toward Harmony) was the lead group. Five additional Florida Church Based Community Organizations participated including ICARE. The subject of the meeting was Civil Citations instead of arrests for youthful offenses. In Volusia County, only 48% of youths eligible for Civil Citations received them this past year.
The Volusia County States Attorney was aware that youths were being arrested for minor offenses more often than they were given Civil Citations. In our conversation he expressed the understanding that the choice between arrests and Civil Citations was completely up to the police department. The lead speaker for the FAITH organization pointed out that the 2018 law very much allowed the States Attorneys to participate in that decision. And that in Pinellas County where the States Attorney’s office made the decision, 99% of eligible youths were given Civil Citations this past year.
Two weeks later I was one of about 460 participants in a statewide Zoom press conference. Among other announcements at this conference, Volusia County had changed its practice. The States Attorney’s office will now make the final decision between an arrest or a Civil Citation for that list of twelve common youthful infractions.
Duval County ICARE began working on the Civil Citation issue in 2012. During fiscal year 2011-12, only 7% of eligible youths received Civil Citations instead of arrests. This past year that figure was 80%. During that same period Clay County has gone from 11% to 84%. We have come a long way but can still do better. Eight BBUUC Justice Ministry Network members have been part of Research Teams pursuing these issues during this past year.
* ICARE is Jacksonville’s Interfaith Coalition for Action, Reconciliation and Empowerment, one of 11 Church Based Community Organizations in Florida affiliated with the national Direct Action & Research Training Center (DART). More about DART at https://thedartcenter.org.