Action today in Tallahassee brings needed attention to three critical criminal justice issues

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 7th, 2013

CONTACT: ACLU of Florida Media Office, 786-363-2737,

Tallahassee - Today, action was taken in the state capitol on three issues that have significant implications for the rights of Floridians and the criminal justice system: the use of surveillance drones by law enforcement, the detention of minors in jails built for adults, and the broken death penalty system.

There is a hearing today in the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee on HB 119 by Rep. Ritch Workman, which would protect individuals’ privacy by restricting the use of unmanned surveillance drones by law enforcement agencies. The ACLU of Florida supports this bill and a similar one in the Senate authored by Sen. Joe Negron. The following statement is by Ron Bilbao, Senior Legislative Associate, ACLU of Florida:

Currently our privacy laws are not strong enough to ensure that this new technology will be used responsibly and consistently with our democratic values. Courts are still wrestling with the Constitutionality of the usage of this technology. We need a system of rules to ensure that we can enjoy the benefits of this technology without bringing us closer to a “surveillance society,” in which everyone’s move is monitored, tracked, recorded, and scrutinized by authorities. These bills take serious steps toward safeguarding our privacy rights, and would make Florida the first state in the nation to pass preemptive legislation regulating the use of drones.”

Also today, a group of advocates for juvenile justice reform spoke out in support of bills filed by Sen. Arthenia L. Joyner and Rep. Mia L. Jones to require sheriffs who detain children in adult county jails to use the more protective Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) standards, instead of county jail standards inappropriate for their needs. In 2011, the legislature passed SB 2112 which allowed jails to detain juveniles in facilities intended for adults. Polk County was the first and so far the only Florida county to institute the policy of detaining children in conditions that are under the less-protective standards, resulting in a lawsuit against the county.

The ACLU joins Senator Joyner and Rep. Jones in seeking to correct the error and bring Florida’s policies in line with state and national guidelines requiring different, specific treatment for children in the criminal or juvenile justice system. The following statement is by

Julie Ebenstein, Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Florida:

“Putting children in adult jails without protective, juvenile specific standards goes against every scrap of research, not to mention common sense.  We have a Department of Juvenile Justice in Florida because we recognize children are different than adults. We’re committed to protecting the rights and futures of children by working to keep kids out of the juvenile justice system and protecting the rights and safety of those who are swept up in the system.  The Legislature needs to act clearly and swiftly to fix this problem.”   


Additionally, the House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice will hear testimony today on HB 4005, filed by Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda which would repeal the death penalty in Florida. The ACLU of Florida has long advocated for an end to the death penalty, and supports full repeal as well as other legislative action that address the inherent flaws in the way in which the state administers the death penalty. The following statement is by Carlos Ramos, ACLU of Florida Northeast Florida Regional Director:

“We are glad that for the first time, a bill to abolish the death penalty is being heard by a full committee in the state legislature. The death penalty system in Florida is discriminatory, arbitrary and full of flaws. Florida is number one in the nation for exonerations and number two in number of people we put to death. We are also one of only two states in the entire country that does not require a unanimous jury to put a person to death and at the very least, that needs to change. We in Duval County are launching a campaign to end the death penalty and we hope to bring Floridians from every part of the state along in this effort. It is past time to end state-sponsored executions and replace the unfair, unjust, and unconstitutional death penalty system with mandatory life in prison.”

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