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A BIG WIN FOR TRANSPARENCY

Tallahassee, Florida

Late Friday night, 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.

Representative Chris Sprowls (R-Palm Harbor) introduced the material in this bill (see 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.

The bill requires that certain data elements be collected and housed in one place. It is common-sense legislation that can help modernize the criminal justice system in the name of fiscal responsibility, fair process, and public safety. 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 the complete terms of any plea offer provided to defendants (whether the plea was accepted or not) which offers unprecedented access into a generally opaque process.

Importantly, the legislation can be replicated in states nationwide, in compliance with a premise that says: a transparent system is a better system.

The new legislation in Florida is an important first step. Now leaders in the state need to implement, facilitate, and fund compliance with the bill so that Floridians can benefit from its provisions.

Measures for Justice could not be more thrilled about this legislation that supports open data, and we welcome any initiative at any level that helps close the criminal justice data gap.

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March 12, 2018

Sample Measures in Florida:

Court Fees & Fines
Length of Jail Sentences
Misdemeanors Sentenced to Jail
Cases Dismissed
Resisting Arrest Cases
Citations instead of Arrest

Criminal Justice News:

In Justice Today: Cook County, Illinois, State’s Attorney Kim Foxx releases six years of felony criminal case data.

Measures in Action:

Our data told Chief Public Defender Keir Bradford-Grey in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, that pretrial release violations in her county were higher than the state average. After recruiting more social services and testing the results, her county is seeing a reduction in pretrial release violations among defendants receiving those services.

MFJ in the News:

The Florida Times-Union addresses what makes a good prosecutor.

Mark Zuckerberg writes about year one of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative: "Data is important because the first step to improving our criminal justice system is understanding it. ... That's why we're supporting organizations like Measures for Justice to make the system more transparent by tracking and sharing data county by county—giving attorneys, policy makers, and regular citizens the tools to search and analyze it."

Explore the Data

What the Portal Can Do

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