Measure Tracking Criminal Sentences Put On Hold

Mar 6, 2017

Rep. Kionne McGhee (D-Miami)
Credit Nick Evans

State lawmakers are pushing to track sentencing as a way to stamp out disparities in how penalties are doled out.  But at its first hearing, the measure was put on hold.

Florida’s point system is meant to ensure parity in how defendants are treated when they come before a judge.  But reporting from the Sarasota Herald Tribune indicates people of color often get stiffer penalties.  Now Rep. Kionne McGhee (D-Miami) wants a state research agency to track sentences.

“We’re simply asking for transparency,” McGhee says, “That a teachable moment has been revealed, and that when you have a teachable moment we all should learn from it.”

Investigative reporting from the Sarasota Herald Tribune suggests there are striking disparities in how defendants of color are treated.  Sen. Audrey Gibson (D-Jacksonville) says the legislature should investigate.

Sen. Audrey Gibson (D-Jacksonville)
Credit Nick Evans

“I think it’s time that we look at whether or not Florida’s doing a good job when it comes to how we sentence people and whom we are sentencing,” Gibson says, “or are there opportunities for improvement.”

Gibson and McGhee’s measures would catalog the sentences handed down by each judge and demographic information about the defendants. 

But the Senate Criminal Justice committee temporarily postponed the bill Monday.  The measure could get another hearing, but may have trouble finding enough votes over the objection of some judges.