“Criminal justice is driven by fear. It should be driven by data.”
That closing comment by Judge Michael P. Boggs of the George Court of Appeals succinctly sums up the message that the Peachtree State has for the Sunshine State when it comes to prison reform.
The comment came near the end of a forum on Sept. 24 in Tallahassee co-sponsored by St. Petersburg College’s Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions. The forum, Part III of the Project on Accountable Justice partnership between SPC, the James Madison Institute and the Florida Institute of Government at Florida State University, was held at the FSU College of Law. Participating from SPC were Jeff Kronschnabl, Instructor in Charge, College of Policy, Ethics and Legal Studies, and David Klement, Executive Director of the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions.
The forum was held in Tallahassee to bring the reform message to the doorstep of key policy makers at the state level, including state legislators in the Capitol for the first week of hearings for the 2014 session of the Legislature.
Among the 75 attendees were Rep. Dennis Baxley, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and three other members of the Florida Legislature. Also attending were representatives of the Florida Juvenile Justice Association, Department of Corrections, Department of Juvenile Justice, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, Florida NAACP, Teamsters Union, FSU College of Law, Askew Center at FSU, Florida Alliance of Boys and Girls, FAM U, Florida Times Union, Leon County Public Defender’s Office, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The forum was titled A Tale of Two States: What Can Florida Learn from Georgia’s Criminal and Juvenile Justice Reforms?
A panel consisting of representatives from Georgia government and court systems offered a concise summary of the measures Georgia took to reform its criminal justice system over the last three years. The panel included Appeal Court Judge Boggs, Rep. Jay Neal of the Georgia House of Representatives, and W. Thomas Worthy, Deputy Executive Counsel in the Office of Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal. Moderator was J. Robert McClure III, president and CEO of the James Madison Institute.
Each panelist attributed the success of Georgia’s prison reforms to the leadership of Gov. Deal. Besides overseeing the creation of the legislative package that resulted in significant reform to the state’s criminal and juvenile justice system, he made it a bi-partisan effort. According to the panel, of three major pieces of legislation taken up by the Legislature in the past three years on this issue, which involved three separate votes in each chamber, all passed unanimously with the exception of one “no” vote on one of the bills.
When funded by the Legislature in 2007, the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions was designated as a statewide policy center, serving the entire Florida College System. This forum represents fulfillment of that role for the first time.
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