The Florida Bar’s first-ever Criminal Justice Summit brought together a diverse group of leaders to provide in-depth education and discussion on key criminal justice issues. Attendees shared ideas and best practices to provide state leaders with potential solutions to the challenges they face.

I was honored to be selected to be on the Florida Bar Steering Committee earlier this year, where several of us were charged with helping to organize The Florida Bar’s First Criminal Justice Summit. After months of preparation the event went off without a hitch thanks to the wonderful President Michelle Suskauer, Executive Director Joshua Doyle, and Deputy General Counsel, Richard Courtemanche.

The summit was broken up into workshops, which covered sentencing reform, pretrial release, direct file of juveniles, specialty courts, juvenile sentencing, and mental health. Woven throughout the workshops were presentations from Measures for Justice, Crime and Justice Institute, the Innocence Project, and a legislative update from State Senator Jeff Brandes.

On Tuesday, I was fortunate enough to moderate a panel discussion on pretrial release. Panelists came from all walks of the criminal justice system, Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter, Judge Kevin Emas, 3rdDistrict Court of Appeal, ACLU of Florida’s Kara Gross, Pretrial and Justice Institute’s Rachel Logvin, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Palermo. The panelists discussed the pros and cons of monetary bail and how it directly relates to a defendant’s likelihood to commit new crimes or to show up for court dates. We discussed potential alternatives and solutions such as providing judges and sheriffs with adequate funding for court technology and pretrial transparency.  Systems like these give defendants a clear picture of fines and fees associated with pretrial release.

It was apparent that no matter how each attendee viewed Florida’s current pretrial release system, we all agree there is a need for more transparency, funding, and coordination between agencies.