Coalition Applauds Lawmakers for Advancing Legislation to Address Criminal Justice Reform

Judicial Safety Valve Reforms Mandatory Minimum Sentencing by Providing Courts with Needed Flexibility

Tallahassee, Fla. – A coalition of conservative public policy organizations today praised Florida lawmakers for advancing legislation that seeks to reform mandatory minimum sentencing requirements by allowing for a judicial safety valve.

Senate Bill 694, sponsored by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and co-sponsored by Senator Randolph Bracy (D-Ocoee), passed the Florida Senate Committee on Criminal Justice on Monday, December 4, 2017.

“A judicial safety valve would allow courts to divert offenders with substance abuse issues into drug treatment, which we know is more effective and less expensive than prison.,” said Chelsea Murphy, Right on Crime’s Florida state director. “Providing discretion to the courts does not dissolve mandatory minimums, it just merely allows flexibility in very specific circumstances.  We thank Senators Brandes and Bracy, as well as their colleagues who serve on the Senate Criminal Justice committee that advanced this legislation.”

“Florida’s mandatory minimum sentencing laws require that a person battling substance abuse should be sentenced to the same prison term, regardless of circumstance, as a major drug trafficker,” said Greg Newburn, Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) state policy director. “SB 694 is a good, narrowly tailored bill that would allow judges to impose an appropriate sentence for those convicted of a drug crime.  FAMM applauds the passage of this legislation at its first committee stop and looks forward to it continuing to advance.”

“Currently Florida has stringent mandatory minimum sentencing laws that require judges to sentence all individuals convicted of certain drug crimes to the same mandatory prison term – without taking any individual factors into consideration,” said Lauren Krisai, director of Criminal Justice Reform at Reason Foundation.  “We are encouraged that Florida lawmakers are seeking to address this issue by considering a judicial safety valve.  A safety valve would allow judges to make individual determinations as to what sentence would be in the best interest of justice and public safety. We look forward to following this debate as Florida’s lawmakers consider this and other important reforms that have been enacted in a number of conservative states around the country.”

“Florida’s tough drug laws were originally meant to punish drug dealers, but mandatory sentencing is too often overly harsh, and illegal possession of even small amounts of a controlled substance is considered drug trafficking,” said Sal Nuzzo, vice president of policy at The James Madison Institute. “Senators Brandes’ good proposal would allow judges to determine whether the defendant is a trafficker who should be sentenced to prison or an addict who would benefit from treatment, drug court, or another sanction to break the cycle of drug use and incarceration. We look forward to SB 694 continuing to move through the process and supporting this commonsense policy.”

“Reforming Florida’s mandatory minimum sentencing requirements is not just the right thing to do, but it’s also a smarter way to spend law enforcement dollars and make our communities safer,” said Mark Holden, chairman of Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce.  “Giving judges flexibility and discretion on sentencing will help ensure the punishment fits the crime, while also providing a more effective path to rehabilitation. This approach is already working in other states, and we look forward to seeing the Governor sign this important legislation into law in Florida.”

Right on Crime, FAMM, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, Reason Foundation, and The James Madison Institute support evidence-based reforms to Florida’s criminal justice system. Visit rightoncrime.com/_florida, famm.org, freedompartners.org,  reason.org, and jamesmadison.org for more information.




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