Florida is “an outlier on criminal justice,” the letter states. While other states across the South and the country have adopted comprehensive, bipartisan criminal justice reforms, Florida continues to operate under policies of the past. The state spends $2.4 billion annually to incarcerate nearly 100,000 people – one-third of whom are elderly and can cost the state up to $70,000 per person per year. The letter was sent to every candidate who will appear on the November ballot for a Florida House or Senate seat.
“It is time for Florida’s leaders to recognize that the state cannot afford the financial burden of mass incarceration,” said Scott McCoy, senior policy counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center, a member of FLCCJR. “Floridians are paying big bucks for the state’s antiquated criminal justice policies, with little return on investment. It is time for lawmakers to take action and adopt comprehensive criminal justice reforms that will reduce the prison population, eliminate racial disparities, save tax dollars and make communities safer.”
FLCCJR notes in the letter that a single bill passed during the 2018 Legislative Session calling for adult civil citation programs and data collection at various levels of the criminal justice system. The letter also references a 2017 poll by Right on Crime that found a majority of registered voters in Florida regardless of party support criminal justice reform policies. The letter was accompanied by a number of resources on this issue.
Candidates need to commit to prioritizing criminal justice reforms by supporting policies that focus on successful rehabilitation and reentry, eliminate criminalization of poverty, reduce prison and jail populations and erase racial disparities within the criminal justice system, the letter states.
“It is integral for political candidates to recognize and prioritize the need for criminal justice reform in Florida,” said Raymer Maguire IV, manager of the ACLU of Florida’s Campaign for Criminal Justice Reform, and a member of FLCCJR. “Criminal justice reform has broad, bipartisan support across the country and throughout the state of Florida. It’s time that elected officials recognize the desires of their constituents to enact smart criminal justice policies.”