Thousands filled Tropicana Field to urge city, county and state officials to stop arresting youths for non-violent crimes.
Two years ago 73,371 were arrested statewide for crimes considered non-violent. Each case cost taxpayers roughly $4,500 in processing fees which doesn't include the amount spent on jailing or court costs.
The group "FAST", Faith and Action for Strength Together, organized the meeting of more than three thousand members of various church congregations to hear from community leaders and to persuade Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, State Attorney Bernie McCabe and St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman, who was not in attendance, to commit to their plan.
Leaders agreed to further divert youths to community based programs instead of charging them with minor crimes.
A civil citation program, implement in 2011, requires youths to face consequences for their actions by making restitution to victims and performing community service, instead of clogging up the Justice system.
Stephen Manning is one of thousands with a criminal past that continues to haunt him.
"I can't even get a job at McDonald's," Manning explained.
He was in and out of the drug game starting when he was 17. Since then, he has served his time, started to get his life back on track, but has faced multiple roadblocks.
"I've had many job interviews, and they love my demeanor, they love my speech, but unfortunately they tell me at the last moment they can't hire me because of my record," Manning said.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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