Florida’s state lawmakers increasingly are embracing criminal justice reform policies that break with the state’s “tough on crime” past. But a sea change could be in the works.
But a sea change could be in the works.
Last year, Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, and the GOP-controlled legislature approved one of the most far-reaching civil asset forfeiture reforms in the country, repealed a 10-20-life mandatory minimum sentencing law, and expanded health care delivery for mentally ill inmates. Mental health advocates say as much as 40 percent of Florida’s prison population needs treatment.
Dozens of reform-related bills already have been filed ahead this year’s state legislative session.
Now, it’s time to go big.
Seizing on momentum, Sen. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg wants to remake the entire system.
“If you look around the country, many other states are leading on criminal justice reform. It’s a wave that’s just starting to hit Florida,” Brandes told Watchdog.org.
“It’s time to look at a holistic view about how to transform the system,” he said.
Brandes is seeking legislative approval to form a task force to conduct a comprehensive review of Florida’s criminal justice, court and corrections systems.
Ultimately, the task force would submit a report with findings, conclusions and recommendations to be molded into legislation for the 2018 state session.
Overhauling state prisons may be the first priority.
“We have prisons that are in a kind of crisis mode right now. We’re having a tough time hiring guards. Contraband rates are through the roof. Our education of prisoners is at rock bottom, and recidivism is a struggle for the state,” Brandes said.
Membership must reflect the racial, gender, geographic and economic diversity of the state, as well as the diversity and demographics of the state’s prison population, according to the proposal. The 28-member group would include members of the House and Senate, judges, academics, faith leaders, victims’ advocates, public