Florida Will Bring More Transparency to Its Justice System

Submitted by YanqiXu on Thu, 03/22/2018 - 10:37am

The Sunshine State is about to shine a light on its own criminal-justice system: Florida will soon become the first state in the country to require all of its counties to release certain data pertaining to jails, policing, prisons, and courts. A bill passed by the state legislature earlier this month requires counties to gather, standardize, and release significantly more data than before. (The bill awaits signing by Governor Rick Scott.)

The anonymized, county-level data required by the bill includes: pre-trial release decisions; the case outcomes of indigent defendants; case outcomes broken down by ethnicity; recidivism rates after defendants are released from prison or probation; and other information, such as a court’s annual misdemeanor caseload. Prosecutors will also have to disclose their plea offers. The bill requires counties to report about 25 percent more data than they do now, according to Wired.

Law enforcement will start making data-gathering changes over the summer, and the state should have its first standardized data release by the summer of 2019, said State Representative Chris Sprowls, who introduced the bill. All of the information is to be published in one publicly accessible database.

Judges’ plea offers will be disclosed “not just [for felonies], but misdemeanors,” said Amy Bach, the founder and executive director of Measures for Justice, a national organization that collects court data and creates performance measures to help localities identify problems in their criminal-justice systems. It’s significant that Florida has included misdemeanor plea offers, Bach said, because minor offenses are “where people really get sucked into the system.” Read more...