Public Service Funding Mystery Series Episode 4 – Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ)

Mission – To increase public safety by reducing juvenile delinquency through effective prevention, intervention and treatment services that strengthen families and turn around the lives of troubled youth.

Vision – The children and families of Florida will live in safe, nurturing communities that provide for their needs, recognize their strengths and support their success.

The key to accomplishing the department’s Mission and turning its Vision into reality is to be able to pay competitive salaries to its staff and contract rates which allow community partners to pay competitive salaries to their staff. Failure to do so assures that efforts will fall short.

The Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) has over 250 individual contracts with private providers, consuming 60% of its budget. Without a robust quality assurance program, the level of success of those contractors in providing services is an open question. According to the 2020-21 budget request, the DJJ is in the process of a reorganization to establish a new program of “Accountability and Program Support”. The reorganization involves moving 123 employees from six different areas into a single unit designed to place greater focus on the Department’s contracting and oversight efforts.

The DJJ budget has been a low and declining priority for the past 20 years.

  • Despite a 49% rise in the Consumer Price Index over the past 19 years, the 2019-20 budget of $593 million is $127 million LESS (yes less) than in 2000-01.
  • The DJJ budget has declined from 1.39% of the state budget in 2000-01 to 0.63% in 2019-20.
  • An increase of $100 million would bring the DJJ budget to just 0.74% of the total budget.

The budget decline has occurred entirely in the categories of Non-secure and Secure Residential Commitment which represents a changing philosophy in juvenile incarceration. While that would seem to be a positive step, there has been no increase in funding for the department’s other services such as; Delinquency Prevention, Community Intervention, Community Supervision (Probation) and Detention Centers.

Raising the salaries of the lowest paid DJJ personnel (Detention and Probation Officers) to appropriate levels and increasing staffing by 20% to bring workloads to reasonable levels is estimated to cost $47 million. (According to the 2020-21 budget, the average pay of both Detention and Probation officers is less than $40,000. Starting salaries, of course, are even lower.)

Adding another $50 million to increase contractor payments and all other areas of the department budget including its capital improvement needs would bring the total additional funding needed to nearly $100 million. Surely that much can be found as it is only 1/10 of 1% of the total $93 billion budget.

Florida Department of Juvenile Justice website –