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Jeff Brandes again seeks to scale back mandatory minimum sentencing

A similar bill died in the previous legislative session.

Sen. Jeff Brandes again filed legislation aimed at inching toward comprehensive criminal justice reform. In a bill filed Monday, Brandes seeks to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences in certain situations.

The bill (SB 468) would allow courts to deviate from minimum sentencing and fine requirements under Florida law if the court finds the convicted person did not engage in a continuing criminal enterprise, did not threaten violence or use a weapon during the commission of the crime and did not cause death or serious bodily injury.

Brandes has long sought to limit the use of mandatory minimum sentencing he says places too much focus on punishment rather than focusing on rehabilitation.

Such mandates leave judges without discretion to apply leniency in situations that might otherwise warrant it and are part of the state’s problem with prison over-population. Reducing sentences in certain situations would help reduce Florida’s prison population.

Brandes filed another criminal justice reform bill last year that died in the Judiciary Committee, its first committee stop.

Another bill Brandes filed last year similarly addressed mandatory minimums, though only targeted non-violent drug trafficking offenses.

That bill also sought to create entrepreneur programs to teach inmates skills before entering society, house inmates in prisons closer to their families and allowing non-profit organizations to create re-entry programs for returning citizens. That measure, dubbed the Florida First Step Act, stalled in the Senate during its third committee stop.

Brandes’ new bill does not yet have a companion in the House.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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