Saint Peters Blog
New criminal-justice reform group launching Thursday in Tallahassee
By: James Rosica
A new criminal justice reform organization is holding a kickoff event Thursday in Tallahassee with anti-tax crusaderGrover Norquistas featured guest.
The Coalition to Advance Justice will hold the invitation-only reception to introduce the organization to key lawmakers and policy influencers.
It will be atthe James Madison Institute, the Florida-based conservative think tank, and sponsored by Bridges of America, a substance-abuse treatment and community re-entry program headquartered in Orlando.
The new group is led byJim DeBeaugrine, a former longtime staff director for the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee and Executive Director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.
He is currently a lobbyist who represents an array of Florida nonprofits. The initial board is composed of members representing a broad range of professional disciplines involved in the criminal justice system in the state of Florida.
The coalition’s mission will be to “educate and inform Floridians on best policies and practices which increase public safety, save taxpayer dollars and increase the likelihood that justice-involved youth and adults will become contributing members of society,” according to a statement.
It points to several facts that justify the need for change:
Growth in inmate population has been grossly disproportionate to growth in population.
Growth in inmate population has far exceeded growth in both the number of serious crimes and the crime rate per 100,000.
Growth in the cost to taxpayers of incarcerating inmates has dramatically exceeded the growth in inmate population.
Only six states incarcerate a higher percentage of their populations than Florida.
Despite the high rate of incarceration, Florida’s crime rate exceeds the national average.
To that end, the coalition will “provide a forum to discuss and debate current juvenile justice and criminal justice research, issues, and reform strategies; link efforts of local, state, and national reform groups’ and move research and policy to practice,” the statement said.
“The bottom line is that solving the criminal justice puzzle is much more nuanced and complex than simply being ‘tough on crime’ and locking people up,” DeBeaugrine told FloridaPolitics.com.
“While Floridians should be proud of recent reform efforts and historically low crime rates, we can do even better,” he added. “We have a unique, and I believe historic, opportunity to throw out labels – conservative, liberal, libertarian, Tea Party – and come together to move our state forward in the interest of public safety and our quality of life.”
The group will have several working groups on specialty areas, including a Juvenile Justice Policy Council, Criminal Justice Policy Council and Behavioral Health Policy Council.