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Juvenile Justice Reform

Today, I want to show you the vote tallies for the bill during the 2021 legislative session that would have allowed for expansion of post-arrest diversion opportunities –– a policy that would be a positive step toward justice reform and result in almost 27,000 children per year avoiding a life-altering criminal conviction.

When you review, please look carefully at the “Nay” column:

Zero –– not a single legislator voted against this bill. Both sponsors, Senator KeithPerry and Representative David Smith, were Republicans. And every Democrat, as well as every Republican, who voted did so in favor of the bill.

While the governor vetoed the bill, we’re not defeated. The bill is coming back even stronger this session after addressing the governor’s concerns, and modifications have been made. We will work together, once again, to secure bi-partisan support for the bill, which will help thousands of young people move on with their lives, thereby increasing their educational and job opportunities.

Senator Perry is no stranger to starting over and has worked with grit throughout his business and legislative career. He has resiliently carried this bill for three legislative sessions, finally reaching this milestone of unanimous passage in 2021. We don’t expect he will stop this close to the finish line. Representative and Col. David Smith, USMCR, (Retired) said it best as he closed testimony during the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Subcommittee “this is the right thing to do for these youthful offenders.”

It’s not just legislators ready to gear up for the next session. Our partner and champion at the Florida Juvenile Justice Association, while disappointed by the outcome, is ready to come back stronger and win. Christian Minor, Executive Director, touted this bill as one of the most important of the session, saying, “At the end of the day, it’s all about the kids, and we look forward to coming back next year and working with the governor to pass something he will support.”

And we think Mr. Minor hit the nail on the head –– it is all about the kids. Across Florida, people understand the basic idea that minors are developmentally different from adults. Their brains are still developing well into their 20s. They make mistakes, and if they are willing to complete programs that help them make amends for those mistakes, we shouldn’t hold them back for the rest of their lives. We should not deprive them or our economy of their place in the workforce.

I know as an SPLC Action supporter that issues like this matter to you. I am excited for the chance to work together with legislators, our partners like Christian Minor, and, importantly, with you to secure passage and the governor’s signature in the next session.

The kids are counting on us. Thank you, as always, for your support.

In Solidarity,

Carrie Boyd, Esq. Policy Director - Florida SPLC Action Fund

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