Seeking to reform Florida’s troubled juvenile justice system, Senator Bobby Powell (D-West Palm), Representative Ramon Alexander (D-Tallahassee) and Representative James Bush, III (D-Miami) have filed legislation prioritizing rehabilitating young offenders over discarding them into the adult penal system. [Read more…] about Florida lawmakers file juvenile justice reform legislation
Senator Bobby Powell
The action comes in response to a U.S. Supreme Court decision
Thursday that blocks citizenship question on the U.S. Census
In light of the Supreme Court’s decision to block a citizenship question in the 2020 Census, state Senator Bobby Powell (District 30) announced today that he has refiled legislation to create a Statewide Census Complete Count Committee to ensure that Florida receives an accurate population count. [Read more…] about Senator Powell refiles legislation to create statewide Census Complete Count Committee
Senator Bobby Powell’s reform legislation which would eliminate the direct file of juveniles into the adult justice system is moving closer to final Senate passage. [Read more…] about Senator Powell’s Direct File Bill Unanimously Passes Second Committee Stop
Legislation would reform the way children are prosecuted in adult criminal court statewide
Legislation sponsored by Senator Bobby Powell (D-West Palm Beach) seen as a key component of criminal justice reform in the state of Florida is heading for its second Senate hearing, following a bi-partisan 5-1 vote of support in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Monday.
“I thank the Committee for recognizing the need for change,” said Senator Powell. “Our children are losing their futures in the current system. That benefits no one—not the state of Florida, not the criminal justice system and, certainly, not these kids.”
Backed by a broad array of social, religious and legal advocacy organizations, including the Florida Public Defenders Association, the Florida PTA, the ACLU of Florida and the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, Senator Powell’s ‘direct file’ bill, SB936, would reform the way children are prosecuted as adults in Florida
Currently, there are three ways juveniles are sent to the adult criminal justice system: indictment, judicial waivers and direct file, the latter giving prosecutors, not judges, the sole discretion to decide how children are prosecuted. Florida leads the nation in the numbers of children prosecuted as adults and is one of only three states that do not involve a judge in those decisions.
Senator Powell’s legislation would change that by eliminating mandatory direct file, prohibiting the direct filing of 14- and 15-year-olds, and revising the list of crimes for which prosecutors can decide to send children of any age into the adult system, among other important provisions.
“No one is saying children should not be held accountable for their actions,” said Scott McCoy, senior policy attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center, and a supporter of the bill. “What we’re saying is they should be held accountable in the system we designed for that purpose, which is not the adult system, but the juvenile justice system. Otherwise, it’s tantamount to throwing them away.”
Senator Powell’s bill next heads to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice.
Legislation sponsored by state Senator Bobby Powell, (D-Riviera Beach), that would dramatically overhaul the way children are fast tracked into the adult prison system received its first green light on Monday, and is poised for its next committee stop.
SB 192 would bring greater transparency into the criminal justice system by requiring prosecutors to document their decisions to prosecute children as adults, a process known as “direct file.” Direct filing children as adults has been an intense topic in the state of Florida as studies such as the 2015 Marshall Project have shown that Florida direct files more children than any other state. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also shown that children prosecuted as adults are 34 percent more likely to recidivate.
“In the past, the direct filing of children as adults in the courts was the fallback position by officials who found it easier to dehumanize kids than work to solve the problems driving the behavior,” said Powell. “This bill reflects a new attitude that kids aren’t disposable, that warehousing them in adult prisons is not a solution, and that redemption and rebirth are possible.”
The bill would create a uniform system throughout the state of Florida based on the child’s age at the time of the crime and on the type of offense committed. Additionally, SB 192 lists criteria that must be used when state attorneys utilize their discretion to prosecute youth as adults, prevents youth who are prosecuted as adults from losing their future civil rights, and eliminates possession of drugs among other non-violent offenses as justification to direct file.
Senator Powell’s measure, which passed on a 5 to 3 vote out of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Monday, now awaits a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice, its second of three scheduled Senate committee stops.