Florida Criminal Justice Forum: Identifying Real Opportunities for Reform

As a result of an increase in research and data collection, a number of states across our nation have taken action to address the issues plaguing our criminal justice system. Overall, the results have been positive. Florida, however, is not among these states that have chosen to take action. Whether viewed comparatively or absolutely, Florida’s criminal justice system is undoubtedly broken.

Florida spends $2.3 billion in taxpayer money every year on incarceration and supervision. 1 in every 104 Floridians are currently locked up in jail or prison, and 1 in every 54 residents are under some kind of supervision by the criminal justice system. Florida has the third-largest prison population in the country with an incarceration rate 21 percent higher than the national average. Between 1970 and 2014, Florida’s total population increased by roughly 193 percent while its prison population increased by roughly 1,048 percent. Florida spends more on the Florida Department of Corrections than it does on higher education. Between 2005 and 2015 Florida’s incarceration rate grew by 18 percent. The national rate was only three percent. Florida prosecutes more children in the adult system than any other state. Under Florida’s direct file statute, prosecutors have unfettered discretion to charge juveniles as adults. A judge cannot override the prosecutor’s decision.

Two-thirds of individuals sent to Florida’s prisons in 2016 were admitted for a nonviolent offense, and 48 percent of newly committed individuals had no current or prior violent conviction on their record. The use of mandatory minimum sentences and sentence enhancements has increased 19 percent since 2007, fueling double-digit increases in overall sentence lengths (22 percent) and length of stay (18 percent) for all sentence types. Florida law has abolished parole and requires people to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences.

This event will focus on opportunities for reform, such as in bail and sentencing, and will draw from panelists’ past and present experiences to explore solutions to many of the issues plaguing Florida’s criminal justice system. Our panel will include five diverse and influential speakers: Professor Priscilla Ocen; Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez; Raymer Maguire, IV; Angel Sanchez; and a representative from the Dream Defenders. Professor Priscilla Ocen is an esteemed law professor who will speak to her academic and professional work in criminal justice reform. Florida Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez will touch on his experiences both as a legal professional and elected official, and will providing insight into the legislative process and the ways in which legislative reform can help effect change in the criminal justice system. Raymer Maguire, IV, the manager of the ACLU of Florida’s Campaign for Criminal Justice Reform, will discuss the work and goals of the Campaign. Angel Sanchez is a current law student and criminal justice reform advocate, who, at the age of 16, was sentenced and incarcerated as an adult. Mr. Sanchez will offer a personal perspective into the real problems the current system has and how his experience has led him to pursue a career in law and advocacy. Finally, a representative from the Dream Defenders will provide their perspective as a member of the leading, locally based advocacy organization that has successfully fought for reform and community progress.

This forum is designed to encourage debate, scholarship, and open conversation among the panelists and audience, which will allow for a much more productive discussion of practical and effective solutions to the issues impacting the community. We encourage the attendance of local residents, organizations, and community leaders. Ultimately, we believe criminal justice reform will lead to better lives for all, safer communities, healthier economies, and a brighter future.

University of Miami School of Law
1311 Miller Drive Coral Gables, FL 33146
Lecture: March 23, 5:30PM – 8:00PM in Room E352
Reception: 8:00PM – 9:00PM in the Student Lounge
Professor Priscilla Ocen, Loyola Law School, Los Angeles
Senator Jose Javier Rodriquez
Raymer Maguire, IV, Manager of ACLU of Florida’s Campaign for Criminal Justice Reform
Angel Sanchez, University of Miami School of Law, Class of 2020
Dream Defenders, Representative TBD

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