Although Miami-Dade County contains 13.4% of the population of Florida, its share of violent crimes in 2012 was 18.3%. The county had the second highest crime rate in the state that year. The delinquency of juveniles has long been an issue in Miami-Dade County with some high-profile violent juvenile crimes in receiving international press in the mid 1990s.
6,900 juvenile delinquency complaints were filed in fiscal year 2011-2012 in Miami-Dade County. Juvenile probation officers in Miami-Dade County work with the county’s juvenile justice system to help juvenile offenders lead lives free of crime while completing their basic education.
How to Become a Juvenile Probation Officer in Miami-Dade County
Bachelor’s Degree – The requirements for juvenile probation officer jobs in Miami-Dade County include possessing a bachelor’s degree and having reached 19 years of age. In addition, applicants must have certification for CPR and First Aid and be U.S. citizens. They will have to undergo a background check before they can be hired as juvenile probation officers.
Basic Training – Newly hired officers learn how to become juvenile probation officers through extensive training. The first phase of training is on the job. These 80 hours include shadowing juvenile probation officers as they work.
Juvenile Probation Officer Academy in Quincy – The second phase takes place at the Juvenile Probation Officer Academy in Quincy. At first, the new officers spend 32 hours learning Protective Action Response (PAR). The rest of their 200 hours involves coursework. A key part of this is learning PACT (the Positive Achievement Change Tool), which is used to assess the risk level of the juvenile offenders.
The Post-Arrest Diversion Program
In Miami-Dade County, the JAC partnered with the U.S. Department of Justice to operate a National Demonstration Project. Out of this was born the Post Arrest Diversion Program (PAD) in 2000.
This new program addressed how first-time non-violent misdemeanor juvenile offenders were handled in Miami-Dade County. Family involvement is not normally a component of sanctions for juvenile offenders, but this program found it to be critical for juveniles to successfully complete their treatment plan.
Over 3,800 juveniles in this county have been helped through the PAD. The rate of recidivism was found to only be four percent when the youths successfully completed this program.
The History of the Juvenile Justice System in Miami-Dade County
In 1995, there were 25,000 juvenile arrests in Miami-Dade County. Such cases are handled by the Eleventh Judicial Circuit that is the fourth largest trial court in the U.S. Four circuit court judges work for the Juvenile Delinquency Division of this court.
The high profile crime rate in Miami-Dade County led to an emphasis on reducing juvenile crime in the county. Traditionally, a large number of juvenile cases were direct filed to adult courts in Florida. The state led the nation in the number of juvenile cases handled in this manner. Research in Florida has shown that incarcerating juveniles who have not committed serious offenses has led to a much higher rate of recidivism.
In the mid 1990s, the Florida Legislature established Juvenile Assessment Centers (JACs). These centers processed the arrests of juveniles and coordinated the various agencies that interfaced with youths that had been arrested. In Miami-Dade County, a JAC opened in 1997. This shortened the time it took to process non-detainable juvenile offenders from up to six weeks to less than two hours.
The Miami-Dade JAC became an independent department in 2002. It was expanded to become the Juvenile Services Department (JSD) in 2005. This broadened its scope, so it could better serve at-risk youth.