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Forum addresses youth, school-to-jail dilemma

John Cook | 11/28/2013, 9 a.m.
Colonel Al Pollack (l-r); Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weeks, Commissioner Bobby DuBose, moderator; Cassandra Evans, chief probation officer for Department of Juvenile Justice [DJJ]; and Judge Elijah Williams, Broward County Juvenile Court.

Two Black greek organizations, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., Chi Psi Omega Chapter and Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc., Alpha Lambda Omega Chapter recently co-sponsored a forum addressing the schoolhouse to jailhouse dilemma that continues to plague the Black community. The event was held at the St. Christopher Episcopal Church in Ft. Lauderdale. Several law enforcement agencies, including the Ft. Lauderdale Police Department and Broward Sheriff’s Office [BSO], participated in the panel. Two Blacks law enforcement representatives, Ft. Lauderdale Assistant Chief of Police Anthony Williams and Colonel Al Pollack [BSO] noted that records and statistics at the Juvenile Justice Department indicated a “disproportionate minority contact.”

Other panelists included: Broward County’s NAACP Chapter President Marsha Ellison, and the Department of Juvenile Justice’s Chief Probation Officer Cassandra Evans. Both women said they attended because they believed that the community should challenge the “schoolhouse to jailhouse” pipeline experienced by a disproportionate number of Black teens in the State of Florida.

Things to consider

Several programs, including the Broward County School Board’s [BCPS] “Promise Program” as well as the renewed “Florida’s Statewide Civil Citation” program, which requires officers to issue a citation to teens with “first time offenses,” have been recently implemented and, according to panelists, effective in curtailing the high number of Black male youth arrested in Broward County.

Recent statistics indicated that BCPS had the greatest percentage of juvenile arrests in Florida and that that of that number, the majority were Black youth.

The forum was moderated by Broward County. The “Forum” was moderated by Broward County Commissioner Bobby DuBose of the City of Fort Lauderdale. Others included: Broward County Assistant Public Defender, Gordon Weeks and the Honorable Judge Elijah Williams. The County also sent Amalio Nieves, director of its Diversity and Cultural Outreach, to clarify the history and goals of the “Promise Program.” Judge Williams, Evans and Anthony Williams joined teamed up to coordinate the revisions and implementation of the civil citation program. A comprehensive question and answer period followed the panel discussion including what teens should do when stopped, detained and/or confronted by law enforcement officials. The dissemination of this information was critical to the forum as the panelists charged the audience with spreading details to the community at large.

Awards were presented to panelists by Dr. Barbara J. Thomas, president of the AKAs and Dr. Berry Pierre, President of the Alpha Lambda Omega Chapter and door prizes were presented to several attendees, donated by sponsoring groups. —johncook76_13@gmail.com