Post Date: May 28, 2014
The “Government Efficiency Task Force” (Task Force) is a constitutionally mandated commission that meets every four years to “develop recommendations for improving governmental operations and reducing costs” in Florida.
First established in 2007, the Task Force meets each fourth year and submits its recommendations to the chairperson and vice chairperson of the Legislative Budget Commission, the Governor, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. As enacted in Section 11.9005 of the Florida Statutes, the Task Force is composed of 15 members of the Legislature and representatives from the private and public sectors appointed by the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The most recent Task Force, chaired by an appointee of Governor Scott and Vice-Chaired by Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto, issued its final report in June 2012. Here’s what the Task Force recommended to increase the efficiency of Florida’s criminal justice system:
The Task Force recommends investigating implementation of a web-based risk and needs assessment tool for use at time of sentencing. Using data on the indicators most closely associated with the likelihood of future criminality, risk and needs assessment tools can provide recommended options based on the individual offender’s risk of recidivating and effectiveness of various sentencing options. The state should investigate implementing a risk and needs assessment tool to provide judges with additional information on sentencing to effectively manage and reduce risk. Estimated costs for sentencing options should be included in the tool to allow judges to weigh projected results with estimated costs of sentences. The tool should be made available to judges at the time of sentencing and to the public through a web portal.
The Task Force recommends performing a study to determine the potential cost savings resulting from implementing a risk and needs assessment tool. Allowing for judicial discretion at time of sentencing, an assessment tool may lead to savings if judges select appropriate sentencing options that have lower costs. A study should be performed to determine the estimated savings from implementation of an assessment tool that includes costs with recommended sentencing options. …
To effectively implement the recommendations, flexibility in sentencing must be provided to judges. Options presented by a risk and needs assessment tool and initiatives partnering the state and counties must be available for judges to utilize at their discretion.
Describing why the Task Force felt the need to address criminal justice policy, former Senator Mike Bennett said, “In the quest of not looking soft on the crime, the Florida Legislature — which I’ve been a proud member of for many years — seems to have gone a little bit overboard.”
The Task Force recommends that stakeholders develop recommendations to the Legislature for increasing flexibility in sentencing guidelines. Judges should be provided with the flexibility to consider the many purposes of sentencing, including punishment, rehabilitation, deterrence, restitution, recidivism reduction, and protection of public safety, as well as cost. Judges should be given flexibility to determine the balance of these elements and most effective method of sentencing for each individual offender. Mandatory sentencing requirements should be evaluated and modified, if necessary, when determined to ineffectively limit judicial discretion.
It’s important to remember exactly of whom the Task Force was comprised. Its members included entrepreneurs and business executives, local government officials, Republican legislators and former legislators, among others. All fifteen members were appointed by Republicans. These weren’t professional criminal justice reformers or sentencing reform advocates. They were members of an independent, constitutionally mandated commission charged with reviewing evidence and recommending ways the legislature could improve efficiency and save tax dollars.
And they agreed with us.
~Greg Newburn, FAMM Florida Project Director