A new benchmark: FL Senate to analyze how proposed laws impact racial disparities in criminal justice system

Orlando Democratic state Sen. Randolph Bracy. Colin Hackley photo.

For years, the Florida Senate has required that every piece of legislation assigned to a committee be analyzed for how it affects state spending, the private sector, and the state Constitution.

Now, in a plan worked out between Orange Country Democratic state Sen. Randolph Bracy and GOP Senate President Bill Galvano, each bill will be analyzed for how it could impact the racial and ethnic disparities in Florida’s criminal justice system.

At least four other states have implemented racial impact statement requirements over the past decade, while seven other states introduced legislation this year to require such statements, according to the Sentencing Project.

“The publication of such information represents a key step toward delineating the extent of any racial inequality or bias perpetuated by the policies we consider as a legislative body,” Sen. Bracy said in a written statement announcing the policy change.

Members of Florida State University’s College of Criminology & Criminal Justice faculty will provide Florida Senate staff with information to include in each analysis.

The announcement culminates months of discussions between Bracy and Galvano about creating such a program.  At one point, the idea was part of a sweeping criminal justice reform package sponsored by Republican state Sen. Jeff Brandes from St. Petersburg. The measure was dropped during negotiations with the Florida House’s criminal justice bill. (A similar idea was proposed in 2014 legislation sponsored by former Democratic state Senator Arthenia Joyner from Tampa).

While blacks make up just 16 percent of Florida’s population, they represent 41 percent of the state’s prison makeup, according to the most recent annual report published by the Florida Department of Corrections (other groups say it’s as high as 47 percent, using earlier state corrections department data).

“I applaud President Galvano for recognizing the importance of this issue and helping to make it a reality,” Bracy said. “This historic move will go a long way toward promoting equality among individuals of all races and ethnicities in our great State of Florida.”

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