Direct-File Reform Bill Vote

The FL Senate Criminal Justice Committee heard the direct-file reform bill SB314 Monday, November 2, 2015. The bill was voted on favorably with a 5 to 0 vote!

There was a lively discussion on the issue. Representative Katie Edwards (who filed the comparable direct-file house bill) presented the bill to the senate committee and answered a number of questions. Major shout-outs to Deb Brodsky (FSU’s Project on Accountable Justice), Sal Nuzzo (James Madison Institute), and Nancy Daniels (FL Public Defenders Association) for testifying on behalf of the bill.

Rep. Edwards pointed out to the committee that there are rampant discrepancies among districts in trying children as adults because of the discretion of prosecutors across the state. The importance of uniformity among the state is important to support fairness in our justice system. The bill is offering bright line parameters for prosecutors on which offenses would be charged as adult felonies.  Tania Galloni (SPLC) reminded the committee that the super predator myth greatly contributed to the creation of the current policy.  Deb stated that the juvenile justice system is uniquely qualified to deal with and care for children who are charged with offenses. Sal pointed out that the majority of kids direct-filed are for non-violent offenses, and there is much data to support the coalition’s claims in support of these bills. Nancy Daniels stated that if the bill would pass it would be a significant step forward towards eventually eliminating direct-file for children all together in our state.

Buddy Jacobs (lobbyist for FL State Attorneys) was the only person to testify in opposition. Senator Bradley expressed interest in getting more data in order to effectively develop our state’s policies on “the right side of things.” Sen. Gibson pointed out that “our young people are not just figures, they are human beings, and we have an opportunity to save them.”

Other groups waived in support of the bill today, including:

Bridges of America
Children’s Campaign
Conference of Catholic Bishops
FL Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys
Florida Children’s First
Florida PTA
Human Rights Watch
PACE Center for Girls

-Eileen Espinal, MPA, MSCJ
Community Advocate | Southern Poverty Law Center