A big THANKS goes out to Gemma and Fred who spoke passionately on behalf of their sons who suffer from mental illness and impairment. The Justice Appropriations Subcommittee heard how the Florida Department of Corrections is failing to provide adequate care. Both men are in very poor condition physically and psychologically. Each have spent years in solitary confinement which is contraindicated for their diagnoses.
Before Bill 7131 came up, I spoke briefly regarding Bill 7113 - Mental Health Services in the Criminal Justice System. I asked that Crisis Intervention Training be mandatory for law enforcement officers statewide. During the debate process, with regard to CIT, Representative Kathleen Peters looked over to me and said, "You will see that go statewide, I assure you."
On to Bill 7131: Four amendments were adopted without objection into 7131. Several House members asked Representative Trujillo about his committee's bill as compared to Senate Bill 7020. He admitted a few times that 7131 did not match 7020.
In the debate process, Representative Ahern mentioned 7131 and 7020, then pointed out, "Unless this (7131) does pass there really isn't any negotiation between the two bodies (House and Senate). . . the passage of this bill puts us in a posture to negotiate what might be the best compromise between the two bills to ultimately come up with a good solution for what's happening in our prison system."
Democratic Ranking Member Rouson said, "Out of all the bills that we have seen in this committee, this probably will be one of the most important ones, one of the most critical ones." He went on to say that he has "received phone calls, emails, and comments from the public supportive of 7020, and it looks like 7131 is really a scaled down version. . .we want to improve it so that when it does hit the floor it takes care of a lot of concerns that people have." After the meeting Rouson came up to me and thanked me for coming up from Miami to speak before the committee.
My sense of the committee is that there is a commitment to passing legislation to address problems in the FL DOC. My civics lesson was that, even though 7131 is a weaker version of 7020, it needed to pass to take it into the negotiation process to make it stronger.
Gemma and I were able to meet with Trujillo after the hearing. He was willing to listen to our suggestions and was amenable to scheduling a phone conversation with me. I promised to send him a list of recommendations to make 7131 stronger. Judy Thompson from Forgotten Majority was able to schedule a personal meeting with Trujillo for the afternoon.
Herald reporter Mary Ellen Klas came over to ask me some questions. Please read her story below.
Fred Hayes - 00:14:40 and 1:24:00
Gemma Pena - 1:08:00
George Mallinckrodt - 00:09:02 and 1:14:00
Link to Justice Appropriations Subcommittee video.
Despite appeals, House advances modest prison reforms