Correctional Policy Council Created By State Legislature Never Meets – Lakeland Ledger

Posted: March 11, 2010 in News and politics

Correctional Policy Council Created By State Legislature Never Meets

By KATHLEEN HAUGHNEY
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

Published: Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 11:49 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 11:49 p.m.

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TALLAHASSEE | In 2008, the Legislature and governor created a body that was required to recommend changes in the state’s criminal justice system, including the sentencing guidelines. But the group has never met, essentially violating the law that created the body.

The Correctional Policy Advisory Council has never held a meeting, never issued a report and never made recommendations about how the state should revise laws that govern the criminal justice system, leaving several lawmakers interested in revising sentencing guidelines without some of the background research they ordered up just a couple years ago.

Several people have been appointed to the 10-member council, which is authorized only until July 2011. But the appointees have never done the work that was laid out in statute. According to the law, the group should be meeting quarterly and by Jan. 15 of each year, it should be providing a report of its findings and recommendations to the governor, House and Senate.

The problem, said House spokeswoman Jill Chamberlin, is there is no money to build a council staff who would do the relevant research for members and brief them on any issues they wanted to examine for recommendations to the Legislature.

"There’s no real point in them meeting if there’s no work for them to do," she said.

Several lawmakers have expressed an interest in revising the sentencing laws for the state, particularly looking at mandatory minimums and other sentencing guidelines that might be out of date. The hope is that examining the sentencing laws might help rehabilitate more people and also save the state money by reducing the number of people who are serving longer than necessary sentences.

Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa, who chairs the Senate Criminal Justice Appropriations Committee, said sentencing guidelines and correctional policies need to be examined regularly.

"The whole entire process needs to be reviewed on a regular basis," Crist said. "Needs change, priorities change. Our statutes should change as our needs and values change in the state. And, you know, right now what we need today is different than what we needed yesterday."

The law suggests using the Office of Legislative Services and the Office of Economic and Demographic Research for staff, but does not provide funding for those employees.

Crist said that the Legislature may include language in a budget implementing bill this spring that ensures that the council has to meet this summer. The staff work may be assigned to legislative staff as part of their regular workload, he said.

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