Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam’s Secure Florida First agenda could put him at odds with some members of his own party when it comes to public safety and criminal justice reform.
Putnam released his public safety reform package Thursday afternoon at the Tampa Police Benevolent Association. He is proposing a six-part plan that includes a ban on so-called “sanctuary cities,” toughening the state’s response to the opioid epidemic by creating a state drug czar, and ending human trafficking by improving the state’s child welfare system.
“Florida faces many serious threats, including criminal illegal aliens that threaten our public safety, an opioid epidemic that kills more than 16 people per day, human trafficking that preys on innocent adults and children alike, and risk of mass violence that endangers the health and safety of all, especially children in our school,” Putnam said. “Florida also needs to be prepared to respond to the threat of natural disasters.”
Putnam is also calling for the continuation of the state’s mandatory minimums for violent felons and maximum penalties for repeat offenders. But reviewing state and federal sentencing laws is an idea that is no longer supported by just liberal lawmakers.
State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Peterburg is one of those who believes that doing away with mandatory sentences and giving judges more discretion when it comes to sentencing criminals is critical for criminal justice reform and reducing the state’s prison population which is close to 100,000 inmates.
Brandes, who chairs the Senate budget subcommittee on criminal justice, said earlier this year that “it’s a new day in the Florida Legislature” when it comes to reforming the state’s criminal justice system.
“I think you’re seeing bold, bold decisions being made on both sides,” said Brandes. “But I think what’s encouraging is you’re seeing the left and the right come together on an issue that really does affect every one of our Floridians and come up with decisions that ultimately lead to better outcomes.”
Backers of a report issued last year called “Reforming Criminal Justice that was financed by the Charles Koch Institute, say the current criminal justice system in our country is very expensive and very ineffective.
“Although advocates may differ as to their motivations — political, social, economic, religious — they agree something needs to be done about criminal justice reform in America,” said Erik Luna, editor and project director of the Reforming Criminal Justice report.
Putnam insists that mandatory minimums for violent felons and maximum penalties for repeat offenders need to remain in place and in some cases toughened in order to continue Florida’s 47-year decline in its crime rate.
“Florida’s next Governor needs to secure Florida from the threats that risk our state’s safety and our state’s prosperity,” Putnam said. “ We need a Governor who recognizes the challenges that our law enforcement and first responders deal with on a daily basis and will protect and uphold the rule of law.”
Advocates for reform say the current criminal justice system in our country is very expensive and very ineffective and they say states like Florida need to lead when it comes to reforming the system.
“Florida is a very conservative state. It’s a very big state,” said Vikrant Reddy, who serves as a senior research fellow at the Kock Institute. “So, when Florida moves on criminal justice reform, people across the country take it very, very seriously. People will say, ‘Gosh, look at what Florida did. If Florida was able to do this then we can do it also.’”
“There is an openness and a willingness to have to have this conversation. I think it’s time has come in Florida,” Rep. Cord Byrd, R-Neptune Beach, said earlier this year. Byrd serves as the House Justice Appropriations chair.