Criminal justice report given to legislators will guide reform


A four-volume, plain-spoken treatise on criminal justice reform is available to the public and it’s already caught the eyes of some legislators looking to reform Florida’s criminal justice system.

Reforming Criminal Justice” recently was published by the Academy for Justice, a group of 120 leading criminal justice scholars representing some of the best higher education institutions in the world, including University of California at Berkeley, University of Chicago, Columbia University, Georgetown University, Harvard University, New York University, University of Pennsylvania, Stanford University, Vanderbilt University, and the University of Virginia.

Of the 120 scholars, some contributed directly and others peer-reviewed the work. The team was assembled and led by Erik Luna, an Amelia D. Lewis professor of constitutional & criminal law at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. 

The volume breakdown: criminalization, policing, pretrial and trial processes, and punishment, incarceration and release. Each of the 57 chapters explores policy issues and provides actionable recommendations. 

The work was applauded Tuesday at the Capitol by Right on Crime and the Charles Koch Institute. The two groups typically advocate for right-leaning policies but their work on criminal justice has drawn unfamiliar allies — such as the ACLU and the NAACP — making it mostly a nonpartisan effort. 

Vikrant Reddy, a senior research fellow at CKI, said Florida is the “most important state in the country on (criminal justice reform).” He said the state’s size and conservative leadership make it distinct from many other states, while an example for others with red leadership.

“When Florida moves on criminal justice reform, people across the country will take it very, very seriously.” Reddy said.

And it looks like Florida is ready to move. Available to the public online, the report also is being distributed to some members of the Legislature.

Criminal justice power players Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, and state Rep. Cord Byrd, a Jacksonville Beach Republican, attended the press conference. Byrd is vice chair of Justice Appropriations in his chamber. Brandes chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice.

On the report, Brandes said, “This document will become very important as we continue to build a foundation of policies to move the state forward in criminal justice reform.”

Brandes this Session is championing pre-arrest diversion programs, which are designed to lower incarceration rates, along with other reform bills.

Danny McAuliffe

Danny McAuliffe is a Tallahassee correspondent for Florida Politics. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as the editor of the FSView & Florida Flambeau. He is a lifelong Floridian and indulges in swimming, hiking, running and memes when the news cycle permits. Reach him at [email protected]


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