As a lawyer, I have seen Florida’s criminal justice system fail too many in our communities, especially people of color and those living in poverty. Our prisons should be places of rehabilitation, allowing offenders to reintegrate into society and become upstanding citizens. Instead, we over-police minorities, impose harsh mandatory minimum sentences, lock up our youth, ignore prisoners’ social and psychological needs, and marginalize ex-offenders for life. As a result, Florida has the third-highest inmate population in the country. In short, we set people up for failure so they have little choice but to re-offend or waste away in a cell.
Our flawed criminal justice system is not only devastating to individuals and their families, but it costs Florida taxpayers over $20,000 per year to house an inmate, which has kept nearly 100,000 people incarcerated, even with crime at a record low. I will fight for an end to private prisons and unreasonable bail, which allows profits to usurp basic needs and civil rights, targeting low-income Floridians with little public oversight. I also oppose mandatory minimums that increase prison costs and keep Floridians from contributing to our communities far longer than necessary. I support the expansion of diversion courts that prevent non-violent offenders, youth, individuals struggling with mental illness, and victims of human trafficking from becoming incarcerated to begin with.
Moreover, we are one of only four states that still permanently denies ex-felons the right to vote, excluding 1 in 10 Floridians from the democratic process. Felony disenfranchisement disproportionately affects African Americans, who are over 4 times more likely to lose their voting rights than other racial groups. As such, I support and will vote for Amendment 4 this November, which will restore voting rights to ex-felons who have completed probation/parole and have not been convicted of murder or sexual crimes. Finally, I will build on Orlando and Daytona Beach’s policies that prevent public employers from asking about someone’s criminal history before they have a chance to interview by banning the criminal history box on all Florida employment applications, public and private.