Legislative session shouldn’t start with“putting on blinders” to “serious problems.”

CONTACT: ACLU of Florida Media Office, (786) 363 – 2737media@aclufl.org

TALLAHASSEE - Today, at the start of the first day of the 2014 Florida Legislative Session, Governor Rick Scott delivered his State of the State Address. Responding to that speech, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon said

“To hear Gov. Scott’s election year State of the State address, one would think that there are no problems in Florida. In fact, human rights have been eroded and many of the basic systems of government that should protect Floridians are in a state of disrepair.

“Our civil rights system is broken, leaving nearly one and half million Floridians shut out of our democracy by our state’s Jim Crow-Era lifetime voting bans. Our criminal justice system is broken, as drug enforcement and sentencing policies based on fear instead of facts have delivered devastating blows, mostly to our state’s communities of color. Our juvenile justice system is broken, with young people being funneled out of their classrooms and into jails, which all too often treat them like hardened adults without regard for the psychological damage caused, for example, by the use of solitary confinement. Our election system is broken, with Floridians’ right to make their voice heard too frequently subject to politically-motivated restrictions designed to shut out those whose voices threaten those in power.

“The legislative session is an opportunity for our state to face challenges and to make life better for all Floridians. To begin the legislative session by putting on blinders to these serious problems does a disservice to the Floridians whose fundamental rights have been eroded.

“Election year or no, the challenges Florida faces – voting reform, drug policy and criminal and juvenile justice reforms, and civil rights protection for those who have none—are too significant to ignore. It is our hope that for the next two months, legislators have the courage to take on the serious problems our state faces and ensure that the government is protecting the rights and civil liberties of every Floridian.”

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