The Florida Campaign for Criminal Justice Reform (CCJR) mobilized this session to address decades of failed “tough-on-crime” policies that have caused the state’s prison population to balloon by more than 1,000 percent since 1970.
Partners from more than a dozen organizations along the political spectrum, as well as citizens with personal stories to tell lawmakers, educated legislators and their staffers on the pressing need for criminal justice reform in the Sunshine State. Several states, including many of our Southern neighbors, have approved reforms that resulted in lower incarceration and taxpayer savings while maintaining public safety.
An Important First Step
Data is critical to making informed decisions and we applaud the Florida Legislature’s funding of $300,000 for criminal justice research. The CCJR anticipates a working group will review that research and recommend substantive criminal justice reform measures for the 2018 Legislative Session.
No Profiting from Mugshots / Sealing Arrest Records
Legislators banned the practice of publishing an arrestee’s mugshot then soliciting removal of the photo for a fee. In addition, criminal history records of an arrest or incident of alleged criminal activity that resulted in a dismissal, acquittal, or not guilty verdict will be administratively sealed. Arrest records can prevent individuals from obtaining jobs and leading productive lives, and this legislation will help ensure that arrests do not taint an individual’s future prospects.
Standards for Eyewitness Identification
The Innocence Project of Florida reports that eyewitness misidentification was the cause behind 64 percent of the Florida cases in which DNA evidence later exonerated the defendant. The Eyewitness Identification Reform Act approved this session should prevent such tragic errors in justice. This legislation creates procedures for state, county, and municipal law enforcement agencies to follow when they have in-person or photo lineups for an eyewitness to identify a suspect. These procedures require the use of a lineup administrator who is unaware of which person in a live lineup is the suspect. For photo lineups, the procedures prohibit the photo administrator from knowing which of the photographs presented to the eyewitness is of the suspect. Live lineups are prohibited if an independent lineup administrator is not available.
Florida’s Criminal Justice Future
Florida today imprisons approximately 100,000 people, costing taxpayers $2.3 billion annually – more than the state allocates for higher education. One out of every 104 people is currently locked up, giving Florida the ninth highest incarceration rate in the country. In addition, one out of 54 residents is under some kind of supervision by the criminal justice system.
This is untenable for Florida’s future. Over the next several months, the CCJR will continue to advocate across the state for smart solutions and prepare to work during the 2018 Legislative Session to end over-criminalization and over-incarceration while not compromising public safety.