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Jeff Brandes legislation would create task force focusing on criminal justice

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

After years of watching other red states leap ahead of them on criminal justice reform, Pinellas County Republican Senator Jeff Brandes is filing a bill that would create a criminal justice task force in the state of Florida in 2017.

It calls for a large committee consisting of 27 members (16 will be appointed) representing the Florida House, Senate, the Governor’s offices and various state agencies, as well as from a victim’s advocacy group, the formerly incarcerated, and the faith community.

The goal would be to take “holistic” review of the state’s criminal justice system, including (but not limited to) sentencing practices, minimum mandatory requirements in statute, prison and jail facilities and criminal penalties in statute.

“I really think you need a comprehensive approach to criminal justice reform, and I’ve never seen it done well in the committee process,” Brandes said earlier this month. “What we really need is a task force to vet these things, and give the (criminal justice) committee a vetted set of bills.”

In recent years, the governors of Georgia, Kentucky and Oklahoma have all made reforms to their criminal justice system, all after receiving recommendations from task forces that they created.

After being elected governor of Kentucky in 2015, Republican Matt Bevin announced the formation of a 23-member Criminal Justice Policy Assessment Council. It was comprised prosecutors and public defenders, members of the faith-based and business communities, state lawmakers and local leaders from across the political spectrum.

In Georgia, Republican Governor Nathan Deal did the same after coming into office in 2011. A task force created that year led the Georgia General Assembly to use those recommendations to enact two rounds of reforms in 2012 and 2013 that, deal wrote last fall ,have made “Georgia’s criminal justice system smarter, fairer, more effective and less costly, while in no way sacrificing public safety.”

The proposed legislation calls for the task force to present its report to the governor and the Legislature by the first date of the 2018 regular session.

(Jeff Brandes is a client of Extensive Enterprises, LLC, the holding company of Extensive Enterprises Media, LLC, which publishes this website).

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at

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