In 2011, the leading cause of juvenile arrests in Alachua County, FL, wasn’t a violation of the law. It was a violation of probation (VOP), which too often occurs because the court-ordered conditions of probation are difficult for children to meet. Since 2011, the Center for Children’s Law and Policy has collaborated with Alachua County and the City of Gainesville with funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. As a result of this partnership, arrests of youth for violations of probation fell by 70 percent. Now, Alachua County is rolling out a broad agreement between law enforcement, schools, and juvenile justice stakeholders to stop the unnecessary detention of children.
Gainesville Chief of Police Tony Jones understands that meaningful communication between youth and law enforcement officers is key to building safe and nurturing neighborhoods. With our help, Alachua County developed training on effective interactions with young people. This, coupled with policy changes regarding domestic violence and diversion programs, has had a significant and positive impact on youth in this part of Florida.