Criminal justice issues have dominated our headlines for many months. Not just about terrorism, but also about suspects who have mental health issues.
Beginning Monday, the Florida Smart Justice Alliance will be hosting Justice Summit V at the Hyatt Regency in Sarasota, where we will highlight Smart Justice concepts in practice across Florida as well as cutting-edge ideas from other states.
The summit kicks off with Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) Secretary Julie Jones. As the first woman to run the largest state agency in Florida, a woman who did not come up within the ranks of the department, she has shown a rapid and deep understanding of the agency as evidenced by the priorities she has set. Governor Rick Scott agreed by asking for an $80 million-plus increase in the FDC’s budget to address those priorities. Secretary Jones will highlight the progress that FDC has accomplished.
In addition, there are four other plenary speakers who will share ideas and innovative practices that maintain public safety as a top priority while using evidence-based programming to achieve outcomes that taxpayers deserve, especially for non-violent criminals:
- Warden Burl Cain of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, who has been nicknamed “God’s Own Warden” by Mother Jones magazine, will talk about faith in prisons. Currently the largest prison in the U.S., and formerly known as one of the most violent prisons in the country, Florida Reps. Dennis Baxley and Darryl Rouson visited to learn more about its transformation. According to Rep. Baxley, “there are more church spires than there are guard towers.”
- Also speaking is Dr. Mahmoud A. ElSohly, "America’s Pot Professor” at the only NIDA-approved marijuana farm at the University of Mississippi. Dr. ElSohly will talk about his extensive research into whether there are medicinal benefits of marijuana.
- Longtime Chair Tena Pate of the Florida Offender Review Commission, formerly known as the Florida Parole Commission, will share what the commission is doing to help inmates leaving state prisons successfully re-enter society.
- From Washington, D.C., Vikrant Reddy, senior research fellow at the Charles Koch Institute, will share what is happening around the country in reforming our criminal justice system.
Beyond the plenary speakers are nine panels hosted by various stakeholders in the criminal justice system including the FDC, Florida Sheriffs Association, Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association, Florida Community Corrections Association, Florida Coalition for Children, Florida Association of Managing Entities, Florida’s Juvenile Justice System, Diversion & Treatment Programs, and our annual state legislative panel.
To date, 18 state legislators will be participating, most of whom serve as policy chairs or sit on the relevant policy or appropriation committees that deal with substance abuse, mental health, and criminal justice issues.
Equally important, leadership in the Senate and House recognize the need for reform of our mental health system. As a result, the summit will address some of those important issues as they grapple with reshaping the system into one that is more efficient and responsive.
The executive branch is also integrally involved, with Gov. Rick Scott issuing three executive Oorders since the summer to spotlight much-needed reforms and expansion of a pilot program into more counties.
Attendees include judges, state legislators, sheriffs and police chiefs and their staff, state attorneys and public defenders and their staff, leadership and staff from the departments of Children & Families, Corrections and Juvenile Justice, county corrections, and behavioral healthcare professionals and providers, among many others.
Radio personality and Sunshine State News senior editor Ed Dean will broadcast his radio show live from Justice Summit V on its first day.
To learn more about the summit, or to register to attend this public event, go to www.JusticeSummit.org as we are reaching our capacity quickly.
Barney Bishop III is the President & CEO of the Florida Smart Justice Alliance and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.