Criminal Justice: Policy In Progress
Every year, the Florida Legislature sees the introduction of
hundreds of bills written by policymakers hoping to make Florida a better and
safer place to live, work, and play. Criminal and juvenile justice issues are
frequent subjects of these bills and many of the criminal justice reforms seen
in Florida are due to the persistence of legislators, groups, and Floridians who
bring their issues and solutions to the table year after year.
With the 2017 Legislative Session drawing closer, it is
important to keep in mind these topics and bills and identify those that have
gained significant traction in recent years and are likely to reappear. Following
Florida’s 2016 Legislative Session, Florida TaxWatch identified four major issues
that were frequently discussed and that appeared in several of the bills put
before the House Justice Appropriations, Judiciary, Civil Justice, and Criminal
Justice committees as well as the Senate Appropriations on Criminal and Civil
Justice, Criminal Justice, and Judiciary Committees:
Enforcement Officer (LEO) Training
The establishment of Crisis Intervention Training as well as
Forensic Diversion sites has drastically improved police interactions with
individuals with behavioral health issues.
The bills proposed during the 2016 Legislative Session surrounding law
enforcement training focused on improving the workforce as well as improving
how law enforcement handles interactions with other specific groups, particularly
minorities and those with psychological disorders.
& Expunging Adult Criminal Records
For thousands of Floridians, a one-time nonviolent
misdemeanor or an arrest without a conviction can put a mark on their record
that may limit their future opportunities.
Several bills during the 2016 Legislative Session sought to give these
”marked” individuals a second chance while maintaining public safety by
improving processes of sealing or expunging records.
The ability to try juveniles as adults is a topic of great
debate. While some claim that many
direct file juveniles are too dangerous for juvenile sanctions, opponents of
the policy call it unjust, stating that juvenile offenders are too
different from adults to treat them the same way. Keeping an eye on the needs of the community as a whole, as well as on
the best interests of juvenile offenders, bills regarding this issue during the 2016
Legislative Session sought to remedy, but not eliminate, the direct file
Diversion & Civil Citation
Modern cultural shifts in sentencing and punishment have
placed greater emphasis on reserving jails and prisons for dangerous offenders,
opting for alternative sanctions that limit or prevent lower level offenders’
involvement in criminal and juvenile justice systems. Florida’s pre-arrest diversion programs have
been successful in achieving this goal without risking public safety, but
primarily target juveniles and remain under-utilized. Bills regarding diversion and civil citation during the 2016
Legislative Session sought to improve and expand the use of pre-arrest
diversions for both adults and juveniles.
Of the roughly 250 bills analyzed, these four topics comprised almost 10 percent of all criminal justice bills presented in
committee during the 2016 Legislative Session.
Upon further analysis, these issues have received steady or increased
coverage with time, so it is likely that these topics, if not the exact bills
themselves, will be presented again in Florida’s 2017 Legislative Session. For this reason, it is important to
understand these topics and what each issue's related legislation is trying to