TALLAHASSEE, FL – The full Florida Senate Appropriations Committee today unanimously voted to pass Senate Bill 642, commonly referred to as the Florida First Step Act. It passed the latest version of the bill, which will now raise the felony theft threshold from $300 to $750, reform the so-called “truth in sentencing” rule which requires incarcerated people serve at least 85 percent of their sentence by allowing incarcerated people to use the gain time they earn to reduce the percent of their sentences to 65 percent for those convicted of nonviolent offenses, require racial impact statements for future criminal justice related legislation to ensure criminal justice policies do not disproportionately impact people of color. It also includes an amendment that will require judicial review of direct filing children to adult court, meaning prosecutors will not be able to send a minor to adult court without the opportunity for a judge to review the decision.
The Florida Campaign for Criminal Justice Reform had opposed the Florida First Step Act until this past Tuesday. With these changes, the coalition now supports the bill.
The following is a statement by Thomas Kennedy, Political Director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition, a member of the Florida Campaign for Criminal Justice:
“Floridians from across the state wanted to see criminal justice reform this legislative session, and they made sure their voices were heard. Week after week, we have seen advocates passionately educate their legislators about the common-sense reforms that can fix our state’s broken criminal justice system. It was their due diligence and commitment that informed legislators on how SB 642 can truly become a first step towards meaningful criminal justice reform in our state by addressing the racial disparities and high incarceration rates in our system. We are proud of their work and we are thankful to see legislators take the steps needed to improve the quality of justice in Florida.”
The following is a statement by the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, a member of the Florida Campaign for Criminal Justice:
“As Catholic bishops, our response to crime in the United States is a moral test for our nation and a challenge for our Church. Putting more people in prison has not given Americans the security we seek. We thank Senator Brandes for leading the Florida legislature in a dialogue on crime and corrections, justice and mercy, responsibility and treatment. Florida’s First Step Act (SB 624) is a significant first step in being smart on crime. We urge the House to take up the Senate bill.”
For a full list of organizations involved in the Florida Campaign for Criminal Justice Reform, go to https://www.betterjusticefl.com/