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Criminal justice reform could benefit people of color in Florida

Criminal justice reform activists allege that Florida’s justice system harms Black Floridians and other communities of color. Critics claim the system focuses too much on incarceration and not enough on rehabilitation, restoration and rebuilding.

Some Flordia lawmakers hope to change that in 2022.

Reforms that could be on the ballot

2022 is an election year and criminal justice reform could be on the ballot in Florida. Among the initiatives advocates are pushing for are the legalization of marijuana, voting rights for convicted felons, reduction of gun violence and criminal justice reform. Some legislators believe that the existing marijuana laws in the U.S. are inhumane and inconsistent. As a result, the courts should release Florida residents who are currently incarcerated for marijuana offenses and expunge their criminal records, according to some lawmakers. Lawmakers are also calling for reforms to sentencing laws, a greater emphasis on rehabilitation, drug and mental health treatment programs and expanded conviction review units.

Benefits of reform

According to advocates, legalizing marijuana will free up law enforcement to focus on other, more serious crimes. Additionally, the state could use revenue from marijuana taxes to provide better training and pay for police departments, fund drug treatment and diversion programs and increase wages for public school teachers. Because the police are four times as likely to arrest people of color on marijuana charges than their white peers in Florida, marijuana legalization could ease the unequal impact of incarceration on these communities.

Advocates for reform envision a criminal justice system free of racial bias and with revamped sentencing laws aimed at rehabilitating inmates, rather than keeping them in prison.

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