Commissioner Dale Holness pushes to keep people out of jail

first_imgAt the November 14 Broward County Commission meeting, commissioners unanimously supported Commissioner Holness’ agenda item to direct the Broward County Attorney’s office to expand the current  ordinance and create Broward County Adult Civil Citation Program for cannabis to include non-violent misdemeanor offenses under Florida law.In attendance at the commission meeting and voicing their support of Holness’ item were Chief Judge Jack Tuter, Seventeenth Judicial Circuit of Florida;  Brenda D. Forman, Broward County Clerk of Courts; Howard Finkelstein, Public Defender, Broward County; David Sharp, Broward Sheriff’s Office; and the State Attorney’s Office.Minor crimes not subject to prison time Eligible offenses would include but are not limited to, possession of drug paraphernalia, disorderly conduct, littering, loitering, passion of alcoholic beverages by persons under age 21, retail theft of a shopping cart.The importance of those in attendance from the judicial and court system was significant. Clerk of Court Brenda Forman offered her office as a centralized clearing house for information needed by law enforcement to implement the program, an important component needed by law enforcement. Institutionalized racial justice system Broward County Public Defender Finkelstein thanked Commissioner Holness for introducing this item and championing this issue.   Finkelstein brought attention that for the past 60 years Broward County has had an institutionalized racist justice system.  He shared that the Sarasota Tribune did a study that showed African Americans are not only arrested at percentages that are completely dramatically inconsistent with white people but their sentences are also far more harsh.“This bill will allow law enforcement to continue doing what they’re doing but at the same time not inflict the damage that has been done to the African American community in Broward County for the past four decades.   We owe this to poor communities of color to start taking steps to remedy the harm that we have inflicted for the past four decades,” said Finkelstein.Over a year working on issue Commissioner Holness spent over a year tirelessly working on this effort. “Over this process I’ve learned there are a lot of low-income people in our jail system because of petty theft.  Judge Tuter pointed out someone could go to a Wal‑Mart and steal $18 worth of items, would be caught, give back the goods to Wal‑Mart, yet the police officer would spend three hours booking that person downtown and then the person gets locked up.  They have a $500 to $2,000 cash bond they cannot pay, they couldn’t afford it in the first place, and kept in jail, costing $140 a night.  We’re spending about $230 million annually on our jail system, which is unsustainable.  The civil citation program for juveniles has a 94 percent success rate, which comes at a savings of $14 million for tax payers,” said Commissioner Holness.According to the American Bar Association, with the court system overburdened with minor offense cases, an arrest record can have long term impacts on employability, housing, not to mention the economic impacts.Practical and prudent program“Contrary to what some believe, this program is practical and prudent and will hold people accountable for their actions. If we do not give people a chance they get caught deeper in the system.  Holistically, this program will benefit our community tremendously and will empower people not to be branded at a young age as  criminals. Most civil citations are issued to people under the age of 30,” said Commissioner Holness.last_img

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