Florida Passes Historic Legislation to Help Close the Criminal Justice Data Gap

Criminal Justice News

A news item


TALLAHASSEE, FL - Yesterday, the state of Florida passed ground-breaking legislation to ensure the collection and public release of criminal justice data that will facilitate opportunities to make smart decisions on policy in the state's 67 counties. With this legislation, Florida announces itself as the new standard for open data and transparency, and a model for other states to follow.

Florida has taken this historic step to ensure full transparency for its criminal justice system, and to recognize the critical importance of public data to any and all efforts to reform the system. Public data are foundational to criminal justice reform-both as a guide to understand where the justice system can be improved and as a metric to assess reforms as they're being implemented.

"This legislation brings transparency to the criminal justice system in Florida. It will be great for Floridians and serves as a model for other leaders nationwide," said Amy Bach, founder and Executive Director of Measures for Justice. "We look forward to more Florida leaders stepping forward to make the promise of this bill a reality and ensure that the resources are there to continue this progress."

Measures for Justice has been working to bring transparency to the criminal justice system through collecting existing criminal justice data from counties across the country to populate a series of performance measures that address public safety, fiscal responsibility, and fair process.

Representative Chris Sprowls (R-Palm Harbor) introduced the material in SB 1392 after looking at the data Measures for Justice has for Florida, appreciating its potential impact, and, as a former prosecutor, instantly understanding that closing the data gap in Florida is critical to his state's success.

"Last night the Florida Legislature took an important step to become the nation's leader in the collection of quality criminal justice data," said Representative Chris Sprowls (R-Palm Harbor). "The ability to look at qualitative information about our criminal justice system will not only bring transparency, it will guide our future decision making. We appreciate the work of our partners like Measures for Justice for advising us on the best path to be the gold standard in open criminal justice data."

The bill requires that every county collect and report the same robust set of data elements, and for the state to maintain a new centralized, public data clearing house that will allow for new comparisons in county-level trends and open dialogue about Florida's justice systems. Required elements will include:

  • pretrial release decisions, which show who is being assigned bail and for what kind of charges, how much bail defendants are mandated to pay to be released from pretrial detention, who is failing to pay low bail, and what is the pretrial release violation rate.
  • data on indigence, which show whether cases involving poor defendants have different procedural outcomes than cases involving more affluent defendants.
  • data on ethnicity, which can, for the first time, show how Latinos, the largest ethnic group in Florida, are being treated by the criminal justice system.
  • data on what type of offenders are being convicted for new offenses after being released from prison and probation, which will help the system hone in on high risk offenders to improve public safety.

This common-sense legislation helps to modernize the criminal justice system and advance fiscal responsibility, fair process, and public safety. It is a first step in closing the "criminal justice data gap" in Florida.

"We applaud Florida policymakers for enacting this legislation to ensure transparency in the criminal justice system. This law will give the public an invaluable window into seeing how their hard-earned tax dollars are being spent and how their fellow citizens are being treated. This data also will better equip lawmakers to make future policy changes that will produce a better public safety return for every dollar spent," said Marc Levin, Vice President, Criminal Justice Policy Texas Public Policy Foundation, Right on Crime.

About Measures for Justice

Measures for Justice (MFJ) is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization whose mission is to bring transparency to the criminal justice system from arrest to post-conviction at the county level. MFJ collects and analyzes criminal justice data from counties and displays them on a Data Portal that is free to the public. The organization was founded in 2011 and has received support from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Google.org, the Ballmer Group, MacArthur Foundation's Safety and Justice Challenge, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, Pershing Square Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, and the Bureau of Justice Assistance. For more information, please visit www.measuresforjustice.org.

Contact: Fiona Druge, fiona.druge@berlinrosen.com, 646-755-6126