Keeping kids out of the court system is the goal of a new agreement signed Wednesday in Jacksonville. The Juvenile Civil Citation Memorandum aims to keep at-risk youth from being put into the system for misdemeanor crimes.

It effectively lengthens the list of misdemeanors that officers can write citations for, instead of making arrests. This type of system is implemented in other places around the state of Florida including Miami, Tampa and Orange County, and studies show that this system helps keep children from repeat offending and helps public safety.

This new program is in effect for Duval, Nassau, and Clay counties.

State Attorney Melissa Nelson told First Coast News that law enforcement “wanted” this memorandum to be signed. Under the previous State Attorney, there was friction on the passing of such a piece of legislation, Nelson said. She said now, all agencies are on the same page.

“Today marks a win for smart justice,” said Nelson. She said that this promotes accountability and is steeped in swiftness and sanction.

The agencies, including local sheriff and police departments, the State Attorney’s Office and the Duval County School Board will be working together to standardize the ticket that is written for citations and will meet in six months to evaluate the entire process.

The hope is that more citations will be written which will effectively keep more children out of the system, which in turn helps to prevent repeat offenses.

As it stands, each agency has its own citation form that they fill out, and though it would be a small efficiency to streamline it, Nelson said it is important.

Nikolai Vitti, Superintendent of Duval County Schools called the announcement “a historic day.”

He said he had been vocal for the passing of such a memorandum for the past four and a half years that he has served as the Superintendent. “It will help them learn from their mistakes, because making mistakes is part of being a kid,” said Vitti,

He continued, this is a “time to be proactive and progressive” with the way we treat childhood mistakes because it will benefit the community and the children in the long run.

“We need to hold everyone accountable, but we have to be problem solvers,” said Vitti, moving children through the system does not work.

So here is how the program works:

Any juvenile who has committed a misdemeanor crime that is filed under this memorandum and also does not have more than two previous citations, does not have an outstanding warrant or custody order, has never been convicted of a felony, and is not gang affiliated, will be considered for this program. I

f an officer has “probable cause” to believe a child is eligible, they will check to see if they are by contacting the Juvenile Assessment Center or searching a database.

The child will be notified they are given a citation and must admit guilt. Their parent or guardian must also consent to the citation. The case is then referred to Teen Court. Teen Court will review the case and accept or deny them. If they are accepted into the program, they will emerge with a clean record following the end of the program.

However, if they are arrested while they are in the program, they will be kicked out.

If there is a victim in the crime, the victim’s family will be notified that the suspect will be getting a citation and not arrested. They will have the ability to petition the citation in Teen Court if they wish.

Crimes that are exempt from this program are those involving a fire arm, deadly weapon or certain traffic offenses.

All parties involved in this memorandum will met in six months to look at the numbers to see if more citations are being issues, if the goals set are being reached and to see if this memorandum is really serving the district in the ways they hope it will.