OPPAGA text logo with graphic of FL historic capitol
OPPAGA text logo with graphic of FL historic capitol

Department of Juvenile Justice


What is the purpose of the program?

The purpose of the Detention Services program in the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) is to ensure public safety. The department supervises youth at either a secure detention facility or through home detention.

Who is served by this program?

The detention program supervises youth charged with committing a crime, primarily while awaiting court proceedings.  Secure detention serves youth who have been assessed as a risk to public safety and must remain in a physically secure facility while awaiting court proceedings or placement. These youth are held under any one of these three conditions:
  • before a judge determines whether they are guilty of a crime (pre-adjudication);
  • after a judge determines whether they are guilty but before they are sentenced (pre-disposition); or
  • after they have been sentenced but are waiting for placement in the residential commitment program to which they have been assigned.

What are the criteria for deciding if a youth should be detained?

Arrested youth are screened using the standardized Detention Risk Assessment Instrument to determine if they need to be placed in secure detention. The assessment weighs whether a youth meets the criteria in s. 985.255, Florida Statutes, which specifies reasons why a youth needs to be securely detained. These criteria include current offenses, prior history, legal status, and aggravating or mitigating factors. For example, a court could order detention if a youth is wanted in another jurisdiction for an offense which would be considered a felony if committed by an adult. Youth who are high-risk are retained in secure detention, which is similar to adult jail.

Youth who are lower risk according to the risk assessment are placed on home detention and released to a parent or guardian to remain in the community and continue to attend school or work while awaiting a court hearing. Both youth and parents sign a home detention agreement. This agreement stipulates the conditions of home detention that the youth is to follow, such as mandatory school attendance and curfew.

How many detention centers are there?

There are 21 state-operated secure detention centers statewide with a total of 1,243 beds and two county-operated detention centers in Polk and Seminole counties, with a total of 344 beds.

What services are provided by secure detention?

The detention program provides 24-hour care and supervision to juveniles in physically secure facilities.  Individual school districts furnish educational programming. Youth also participate in recreational activities and have access to medical, substance abuse, and mental health services.

How many youth are served?

In Fiscal Year 2018-19, there were 13,031 youth served under secure detention, 8,491 served under home detention, and 3,105 served by electronic monitoring.

How long can youth be held in secure detention?

Youth appear before a judge within 24 hours of being taken into custody and may not be placed in detention for longer than 24 hours unless the court orders continued detention. Typically, a youth cannot be held in secure detention for more than 21 days, however youths charged with serious crimes may be held for up to 30 days.

How are these activities funded?

Fiscal Year: 2020-21
Fund Dollars Positions


Contraband.  Chapter 2020-59, Laws of Florida,revises the list of prohibited contraband for juvenile detention centers and commitment programs.  Statute previously prohibited items such as unauthorized food or clothing, intoxicating beverages, and firearms or weapons.  This bill adds restrictions on marijuana, hemp, cellphones, and vaping devices.  The bill specifies punishment for the prohibited contraband which ranges from a first degree misdemeanor to a second degree felony.

DJJ Visitation. The 2018 Legislature enacted Ch. 2018-47, Laws of Florida, which allows authorized people to visit DJJ facilities. Authorized people include the Governor, a cabinet member, a member of the Legislature, a judge of a state court, a state attorney, a public defender, or a person authorized by the Secretary of DJJ.

Prolific Juvenile Offenders. The 2017 Legislature enacted Ch. 2017-164, Laws of Florida, which defines certain repeat juvenile offenders as prolific juvenile offenders and increases the use of detention for these offenders. The law defines prolific juvenile offenders using three criteria in s. 985.255(1)(j), Florida Statutes. The first criterion is that the child is charged with a delinquent act that would be a felony if committed by an adult.  The second is that the child has a previous adjudication or adjudication withheld for a felony offense or delinquent act that would be a felony if committed by an adult.  Finally, the child must have five or more of any of the following, with at least three for felony offenses or delinquent acts that would have been felonies if committed by an adult:  an arrest event for which a disposition has not been entered; an adjudication; or an adjudication withheld.

The law increases the use of detention for prolific juvenile offenders by requiring that a prolific juvenile offender be placed in nonsecure detention with electronic monitoring or secure detention under a special detention order until disposition, which is the final decision by the court about sanctions, conditions, or services.  If the court orders secure detention, it may not exceed 21 days unless the adjudicatory hearing, where the court determines if the evidence supports the allegation against the child, has started. Additionally, the law requires that if a prolific juvenile offender is adjudicated and awaiting placement in a residential commitment program, then the child must be held in secure detention until placed in the commitment program. Additionally, the 2018 Legislature enacted Ch. 2018-86, Laws of Florida, which requires a prolific juvenile offender who is taken into custody for violation of the nonsecure detention conditions to be placed in secure detention until a detention hearing occurs.   

Decreasing Juvenile Arrests.  The number of youth arrests for delinquency has decreased from 59,598 youth arrests in Fiscal Year 2017-18 to 54,768 in Fiscal Year 2018-19, an 8% decrease. This continues the trend of declining juvenile arrests, which has decreased by 27% since Fiscal Year 2014-15.

Where can I find related OPPAGA reports?

Direct File of Children to Adult Court Is Decreasing; Better Data Needed to Assess Sanctions, Report 17-06, March 2017

Where can I get more information?

Other Reports
Quality Improvement Program Reports, Department of Juvenile Justice.
Comprehensive Accountability Reports, Department of Juvenile Justice.
Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) Utilization Studies, Department of Juvenile Justice, 2015.
A Sourcebook of Delinquency Interventions, Department of Juvenile Justice, 2015.
Websites of Interest
Department of Juvenile Justice, Bureau of Research and Planning
Department of Juvenile Justice, Quality Improvement Residential Program Reports
Performance Information
Performance measures and standards for the department may be found in its Long Range Program Plan.

What are the applicable statutes?

Chapter 985 Part V, Florida Statutes.

Whom do I contact for help?

Dixie Fosler, Assistant Secretary Detention Services, 850-921-6292