Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Jeff Brandes, Darryl Rouson agree that Florida's 'broken' criminal justice system needs to change

State Sen. Darryl Rouson (D) (on left), state Sen. Jeff Brandes (R) (in center) and Central Florida Urban League CEO Glen Gilzean on the panel during a discussion at the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club luncheon on the future of Florida's criminal justice system. DIRK SHADD   |   Times

State Sen. Darryl Rouson (D) (on left), state Sen. Jeff Brandes (R) (in center) and Central Florida Urban League CEO Glen Gilzean on the panel during a discussion at the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club luncheon on the future of Florida's criminal justice system. DIRK SHADD | Times

ST. PETERSBURG — In a room overlooking Tampa Bay, two politicians from opposing parties found common ground on Friday.

Despite a nationally divisive climate, state Sens. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, and Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, agreed: Florida's criminal justice system needs to change.

"(Brandes) and I are diametrically opposed on many political philosophies," said Rouson to a crowd of about 40 at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club. But sitting side by side, they spoke about their combined efforts to push through reform of Florida's "broken" criminal justice system.

"Senator Brandes has become an ally in many respects," Rouson said.

The non-partisan Suncoast Tiger Bay Club hosted the discussion on the future of Florida's criminal justice system and what the two politicians were doing to change it. The panel consisted of Brandes, Rouson and Central Florida Urban League CEO Glen Gilzean. Sarasota Herald-Tribune investigative reporter Emily Le Coz, who reported on an investigation that revealed a racial disparity in sentencing, moderated the event.

During the hourlong discussion, the three panelists answered questions from the audience and Le Coz, who asked how they viewed the system and its fairness in sentencing.

"I have a biased viewpoint when it comes to sentencing and fairness," Rouson replied. "The good news is that judges bring their humanity to the courtroom. The bad news is that judges bring their humanity to the courtroom."

The disparity the Herald-Tribune reported on, which found blacks were given longer prison sentences than whites for the same crime, was nothing new, Rouson said. He added that he believes the majority of sentences handed down from judges are imposed rather than given.

Despite his and Brandes' efforts at reform in the most recent legislative session, Rouson said, their proposals failed. But they plan on trying again.

Brandes believes it's going to take a comprehensive review of the system to bring change. Everything from mental health services, to jails, to prisons and sentencing need to be improved.

"One constant theme is, nobody is saying, 'We got this one section right,' " he said. "It's not like we can just fix one little piece and leave the rest broken."

Gilzean said prevention and intervention are the two areas of importance, and through education, they can begin to repair the state's criminal justice system.

"If we don't resolve the educational crisis that we're faced with, and I use that word correctly, then how can we really resolve the criminal justice system?" he said.

Todd Jennings, president of the Tiger Bay Club, said the event was part of its effort to talk about issues that aren't just based on elections but to tackle other topics like foreign policy, immigration and gun legislation.

Plus, Jennings said: "Younger people want to see more substantive topics," and the club is looking to get more young professionals involved.

Jeff Brandes, Darryl Rouson agree that Florida's 'broken' criminal justice system needs to change 07/14/17 [Last modified: Friday, July 14, 2017 9:04pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Clearwater residents avoid tax rate increase for ninth year in row

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER — Residents will avoid a rate hike on their property taxes for the ninth year in a row as taxable values continue to recover from recession levels, padding city coffers.

    Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos said the city must be prepared for unexpected expenses. JIM DAMASKE   |   Times
  2. Rays beat Orioles, but tough stretch looms that could change their plans (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tuesday was a step back in the right direction for the Rays, who halted a season-high five-game losing streak by hanging on — and we mean that pretty much literally — for a 5-4 win over the Orioles.

    The Rays’ Tim Beckham celebrates with Mallex Smith after hitting a three-run homer in the second inning for a 5-0 lead.
  3. Diaz, Taddeo win easily in special Miami Senate primaries

    Blogs

    Two Miami state Senate candidates who raised and spent the most in their respective primaries — Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and Democratic businesswoman Annette Taddeo — notched easy victories in a special election Tuesday night.

    Republican candidate Jose Felix Diaz is surrounded by supporters after he won the primary for Florida’s Senate District 40 race. Democrat Annette Taddeo, right, celebrates her victory with supporter Venus Lovely at BJ’s Restaurant in The Falls.
  4. In live debate, Kriseman and Baker ask St. Pete: Is the city better off?

    Elections

    ST. PETERSBURG

    Mayoral candidates Rick Kriseman and Rick Baker made their best pitch to voters in front of a live television audience on Tuesday night. The candidates essentially asked this: Is the city better off now than it was four years ago?

    Incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker debate in front of a live television audience during the City of St. Petersburg Mayoral Debate at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg on Tuesday evening. The event was sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times and Bay News 9. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  5. Romano: It all comes down to sewage in this mayoral race

    Local Government

    Well, poop.

    Nothing else really matters, does it?

    Schools, economic development, public safety? Pfft. The Rays stadium, affordable housing, the pier? Ack. When it comes to the St. Petersburg mayoral election, sewage is the yin, the yang and the yuck.

    At Tuesday’s debate, incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman said responsibility lies on him regarding the sewage crisis.