Smart Justice for a Safer Florida
  • News: State leaders discuss criminal justice issues in Orlando

    Orlando Sentinel – January 27, 2014

    By Amy Pavuk

    The thousands of inmates released from Florida’s prisons each year aren’t given much to start their new life — a bus ticket and $40.

    Without a driver’s license or identification card, it can be difficult to accomplish even the simplest tasks once they’re free.

    It’s a problem that a coalition recognized — once everyone was at the table — and now they’re working with lawmakers to enact a program that gives prisoners an ID or the paperwork to obtain one when they are released.

    The issue came about at an annual summit hosted by the Florida Smart Justice Alliance, a coalition of organizations dedicated to making changes in the state’s criminal justice and corrections systems.

    This week, leaders from across the country are gathering in Central Florida for the third annual Justice Summit, where organizers hope they will learn what’s working and what isn’t working in the criminal justice system.

    The three-day event gives stakeholders an opportunity to communicate with each other — something they often do not have an opportunity to do, said Lori Costantino-Brown, founding chair of the Florida Smart Justice Alliance and president of Bridges of America, a provider of transition and work-release programs in Florida.

    Once everyone is together, Costantino-Brown said, “you really start making a difference.”

    Law-enforcement leaders and court administrators can talk with representatives from non-profits and faith-based groups on issues ranging from drug abuse to mental illness to helping juveniles.

    They also will learn about smart justice initiatives around the country from crime experts.

    Attorney General Pam Bondi spoke during the opening session Monday, telling the large crowd more drug treatment is needed in prison.

    Bondi, who held an anti-human trafficking workshop for businesses in Orlando earlier in the day, said women and teens who work in the sex trade are often addicted to drugs.

    She wants safe-houses in Florida where victims of human trafficking can receive treatment for drug addictions and receive other services.

    Bondi also said she and law-enforcement are targeting emerging drugs such as the synthetic drugs Spice and K-2.

    “We’re doing everything we can to fight the war on drugs,” she said.

    More than 100 experts are slated to attend the summit, which concludes Wednesday.

    Orange-Osceola Chief Judge Belvin Perry and Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings are slated to speak about criminal justice policy in Florida.

    Other topics to be discussed this week are alternatives to jailing people suffering from mental illnesses, and treating drug addicts so that they don’t end up back in jail.

    “All of us have the same goal,” said Costantino-Brown, “to keep the community safe.”

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