May 31, 2018 Press Release

Graham Proposes Progressive, Comprehensive Criminal Justice Plan with Support From Democrats, Community Leaders, Reform Advocates and Law Enforcement

Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham is releasing a comprehensive criminal justice plan addressing nine major policy areas to combat injustice, ensure equality and decrease Florida’s inmate population.

“For too long, the politicians in Tallahassee have ignored the inequity and pervasive prejudice in Florida’s criminal justice system. While they’ve failed to act, Floridians have been hurt by mass incarceration, increasing costs and devastating cuts,” Graham said. “We face a crisis today and can not afford to continue with the status quo. As governor, I will fight for impactful progressive policies that can pass the legislature with bipartisan support.”

Graham’s plan addresses nine major issue areas with bold, bipartisan-supported reforms that have the potential to improve life for countless Floridians currently facing an unfair justice system. The entire comprehensive plan can be found copied below.

  • Sentencing Reform
  • Juvenile Justice
  • Law Enforcement
  • Victims’ Rights
  • Death Penalty
  • Prison Reform
  • Restoration of Rights
  • Mental Health
  • Bail Reform

“Ineffective drug laws, unfair minimum-sentencing punishments, and archaic bail policies systematically hit communities of color and poor Floridians hardest. Working in the criminal justice system and with rehabilitation groups, I have seen firsthand that we can reduce inequality, give citizens second chances and make our state safer,” Graham said. “This is an area Democrats and Republicans agree we can take progressive action — and, as governor, I will lead them in passing these reforms.”

Florida incarcerates almost 100,000 inmates at an annual cost of about $2.4 billion a year. Graham’s proposal addresses inequality in the criminal justice system that increases incarceration and would invest more in programs to assist inmates and returning citizens to reduce recidivism.

“For too long our state has turned a blind eye to the pervasive prejudice and bias in our criminal justice system. No one’s life should be ruined for using drugs or the mistakes they make as a child,” said State Senator Darryl Rouson, who has led the charge for bipartisan criminal justice reform in the Legislature. “Gwen Graham’s plan to reduce sentencing for nonviolent drug possession and perform a full review of all mandatory minimum sentencing laws for nonviolent offenses will help Floridians in the communities I represent.”

Graham is the only candidate for governor with a plan that addresses juvenile justice reforms. Her proposal requires that each state attorney’s office conducts a review process before a juvenile can be charged as an adult, limits adult charges for juvenile offenders to those with past felony delinquency or charged with violent felonies, and makes it easier for youth offenders to expunge criminal records.

“Charging children as adults and locking them up in adult prisons can cause irreparable harm that makes it harder for them to rehabilitate and return to society,” said Duval School Board Member Warren Jones. “Criminal justice reform must include juvenile justice and I’m glad to see Gwen Graham take this issue on in such a comprehensive manner.”

Graham is building a large coalition in support of the plan and also earned praise from former Leon County Public Defender Nancy Daniels, the Rev. RB Holmes Jr., pastor of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, law enforcement and former Attorney General Bob Butterworth.

“Mandatory minimum sentencing laws have resulted in longer sentences, ruined lives and greater costs to our state. Gwen Graham’s proposal to give judges greater discretion in sentencing is a monumental step toward fairness in Florida’s criminal justice system,” Daniels said. “Graham’s plan will place a greater focus on rehabilitation and make our communities safer.”

“It is imperative that we fix, transform and reform a criminal justice system that has historically treated the poor and disadvantaged communities unfairly. We need to reduce sentencing for nonviolent offenders and invest more in rehabilitation,” Holmes said. “Gwen Graham’s plan would help countless Floridians, it will help rebuild and revitalize communities across the state, and it will restore greater fairness to the criminal justice system.”

“Most politicians completely overlook our state’s correctional and probation officers. These uniformed men and women across the state put their lives on the line to secure our prisons and protect our communities,” said Matt Puckett, executive director of the Florida Police Benevolent Association. “We believe Graham’s plan to better support officers, close the state’s private prisons, and expand rehabilitation programs will make Florida safer.”

“For too long, Florida has put more emphasis on putting people in prison than on what happens once they are behind bars or when they return to our communities,” former Attorney General Bob Butterworth said. “Gwen Graham’s plan will make our state safer by reducing recidivism and helping returning citizens as they transition back into our communities.”

Sentencing Reform:

  • Reduce sentencing for nonviolent drug possession
  • Decriminalize personal possession of marijuana
  • Reduce driver’s license suspensions for non-driving offenses
  • Perform a full review of all mandatory minimum sentencing laws for nonviolent offenses and again give judges discretion to depart from mandatory minimum sentences with a “safety valve” based on evidence in a particular case

Juvenile Justice:

  • Require each state attorney’s office to conduct a review process before a juvenile can be charged as an adult
  • Limit adult charges for juvenile offenders to those with past felony records or who have been alleged to have committed violent felonies
  • Expand flexibility in funding and investment in community-based programs
  • Increase opportunities for nonviolent juvenile and youth offenders to expunge criminal records, allowing them to find jobs and reduce recidivism

Law Enforcement:

  • Increase positive police/community encounters through the use of evidence-based strategies such as Problem Oriented Policing
  • Increase focus on law enforcement officer health and wellness
    Victims’ Rights:
  • Structure the criminal justice system to ensure that victims are treated with dignity and respect and provided the choice to have their voices fully heard throughout the criminal justice process, receive appropriate restitution, and even, if they wish, provided the opportunity to be reconciled with first-time nonviolent offenders

Death Penalty:

  • Require state attorney’s office to get approval from a panel of attorneys within their offices before seeking the death penalty

Prison Reform:

  • Order a full review of department operations and procedures, and equip correctional officials with the tools they need to keep our prisons safe and functional
  • Increase pay for correctional and probation officers
  • Stop the expansion of private prisons and phase out the existing private prisons in use today
  • Expand re-entry, education, mental health and substance abuse treatment programs in prisons

Restoration of Rights:

  • Restore voting rights to returning citizens who have completed their sentences
  • Examine how to reduce barriers to housing and employment for returning citizens to Florida communities

Mental Health:

  • Invest in mental health services and the state’s mental health facilities

Bail Reform:

  • Increase use of community monitoring and non-monetary bail for misdemeanor and non-violent felony offenders
  • Eliminate the “poverty penalty” involved in locking up misdemeanor and non-violent felony offenders who cannot afford to post monetary bail