It is time to enact comprehensive criminal justice reforms
that focus on rehabilitation and treatment, protect public safety by reducing
recidivism, reunite families, restore human dignity, provide healing and
justice to victims, and save taxpayer money.
Whether a person with a conviction can find gainful employment is one of the most important factors in determining if that person will succeed in reintegrating into his or her community, or will commit another crime. Florida’s occupational licensing laws can block job and entrepreneurial opportunities for people returning from prison. These barriers impede and, in some cases, completely prevent people with convictions from becoming gainfully employed.
For decades, Florida – like the rest of the United States – has relied primarily on incarceration as the so-called solution to criminal justice issues. However, this has created an extraordinarily harsh system that drives too many people into jails and prisons – and costs taxpayers millions – without meaningfully increasing public safety. What’s more, mass incarceration disproportionately affects people of color, particularly black people.
Racial disparities plague Florida’s criminal justice system. People of color make up 59.4 percent of Florida’s incarcerated population, but only 42.5 percent of the state’s general population.The disparities are even greater when you consider just the state’s black population. Black people make up only 16.9 of the general population, but comprise 47 percent of Florida’s prison population. In contrast, the majority of people who were released from prison in FY 2017-18 were white.
Originally intended as a sanction to address poor driving behavior, driver’s license suspensions and revocations are now routinely used to criminalize the poor. They are frequently used as penalties for failure to pay court fees, regardless of whether the individual can afford to pay, as well as for a range of non-driving offenses such as graffiti, petty theft, and possession of small amounts of marijuana. Nearly two million of Florida’s more than 14 million driver’s licenses are suspended each year.