ORLANDO, Fla. — Orange-Osceola State Attorney Monique Worrell is inviting Orlando community members to a public conversation about violence prevention Monday night, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Experience Christian Center on Indian Hill Road.

What You Need To Know

  • A public conversation about violence prevention will be held Monday night from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Experience Christian Center on Indian Hill Road

  • Bishop Derrick McRae will moderate the discussion between State Attorney Monique Worrell and other participants

  • At this point in 2023, 2,000 people have already died from gun violence in the U.S., including 96 people in Florida

Bishop Derrick McRae will moderate the discussion between Worrell and other participants, from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Pine Hills Community Council, Prevent Gun Violence Florida, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and Credible Messengers of Florida. 

At this point in 2023, 2,000 people have already died from gun violence in the U.S., including 96 people in Florida, according to The Gun Violence Archive.

Following the arrest of 19-year-old triple homicide suspect Keith Moses earlier this year, questions arose about why he hadn’t previously been detained, given his lengthy juvenile record. But Florida’s juvenile justice system doesn’t allow for minors to be convicted with a crime; only “adjudicated delinquent.”

“We have a juvenile system that is totally inadequate to deal with children who commit violent offenses,” Worrell told Spectrum News last month.

Worrell said although the juvenile justice system’s purpose is rehabilitation, that process takes longer for youth who have committed violent crimes. She said currently, Florida law only allows juvenile offenders to serve 18-36 months in a rehabilitative program, even for the offense of manslaughter.

Additionally, Florida’s juvenile court jurisdiction automatically ends once the offender turns 19. The Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University supports extending that age to 21, according to a 2019 report

An unsuccessful bill proposal Worrell filed earlier this year would have changed both limitations to Florida’s current juvenile justice system. But even beyond those limitations, Worrell said it’s critical to recognize, reducing violence takes a multi-pronged approach.

“We as a society have to understand that incarceration alone doesn’t keep us safe,” Worrell said. “We have to put more resources into root cause analysis. We have to put more resources into preventing crime from happening, instead of only reacting to crime after it’s happened.”

One participant in Monday night’s conversation, Ruben Saldaña, is a former gang member turned youth mentor, helping kids build healthy relationships with other mentors who know firsthand what the criminal justice system is like – and have since turned their lives around.

Saldaña’s initiative, Credible Messengers of Florida, is part of a national program focused on violence prevention and intervention, funded in part by Orange County’s Citizens Safety Task Force.

Meanwhile, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition is leading a Community Violence Intervention Initiative, funded by the City of Orlando, that focuses on engaging with returning adult citizens who were formerly incarcerated. 

While different, both programs rely on the idea that people with similar lived experiences have the best chance to engage with at-risk populations, and divert them away from committing violent acts. 

It’s a notion Orange County Sheriff John Mina can get behind: in an interview last month, he told Spectrum News, “I’m all for that,” especially when it comes to young people. 

“Any time that we can intervene and get the juvenile on a right path … I support that. And many times, that can stop the violence before it occurs,” Mina said. 

However: “Our issue is, once the violence does occur, we can all be proactive … by holding those accountable, instead of this revolving door that we see sometimes,” Mina said.

More Americans died of gun-related injuries in 2021 than any other year on record, according to the Pew Research Center’s recent analysis of CDC data.

According to the CDC, in 2020 about 124 people died a day from gun shot wounds.

Also, according to a Pew Research Analysis of CDC data: “Gun murders, in particular, have climbed sharply during the pandemic, increasing 45% between 2019 and 2021, while the number of gun suicides rose 10% during that span.”

However, the number of youth committing violent crimes continues to steadily decline, according to data compiled by the U.S. Department of Justice

“It's a very, very small percentage of people who are committing the crimes in our community, and a very small percentage of juveniles,” Mina said.