Floridians’ arrest records might be costing the state $40 billion a year.
The Alliance for Safety and Justice and Associated Industries of Florida joined forces to release a report Wednesday on the impact arrest records have on Floridians who want to join the workforce.
More than 6 million Floridians have an arrest record, meaning 6 million Floridians could face restrictions on their employment and licensing opportunities even after they have “paid their debt to society.” The report also frames itself around the national labor shortage, which has left Florida short by 150,000 workers.
Restricting the job opportunities of people with arrest records costs Florida more than $40 billion a year in lost worker earnings and business productivity, according to the report.
“The priority of our criminal justice system should be to keep our communities safe and improve outcomes for those who have served their time,” ASJ State Director Subhash Kateel said in a statement. “The barriers that people with old records face when they’re reentering society do nothing to keep us safe or to end cycles of crime.”
Having a criminal conviction reduces hiring callbacks by half for White job applicants and by nearly two-thirds for Black applicants, according to the report. That’s despite employers touting the skills and capabilities of people with records.
“When businesses thrive, workers and communities thrive as well — but communities across our state face a worker shortage that desperately needs to be addressed,” AIF President and CEO Brewster Bevis said. “Our elected leaders can take steps to activate a workforce that is skilled and eager to get back to work, all while maintaining public safety.”
The report also outlines possible solutions, such as automatically sealing arrests at the local level that are already sealed at the state level — a measure that passed the Senate committee process with ASJ’s support this year but stalled partway through the House process. Other proposals include sunsetting old records and incentivizing job skills like certificates and GEDs.
“Millions of Floridians are shut out of the economy even after they have already paid their debt to society,” Bevis continued. “By eliminating barriers to employment for these individuals, we can help make sure everyone who wants a job can get a job.”
Coming up, the usual assortment of news, intel and observations from the week that was in Florida’s capital city by Peter Schorsch, Drew Wilson, Renzo Downey, Christine Jordan Sexton and the staff of Florida Politics.
But first …
The “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
Gov. DeSantis wants tolls halved for frequent commuters — Tolls would be cut in half for frequent drivers next year under a legislative proposal unveiled Wednesday by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Under the plan, any driver with a SunPass or E-ZPass that hits 40 tolls in a month will have 50% of those costs refunded to them at the end of that month. The proposal would benefit more than 750,000 Florida drivers with an average savings of $550 over the year, DeSantis said. The proposal comes on the heels of DeSantis’ move last month to discount tolls for commuters on Florida Turnpike roads for six months. DeSantis last month said that the program will save about 400,000 drivers a combined $40 million.
DeSantis mobilizes National Guard into prisons — Following legislative approval for a plan to temporarily alleviate the shortage of correctional officers in state prisons, DeSantis ordered the National Guard to immediately activate members who have stepped forward to fill the gap. DeSantis issued the order Friday, hours after the Joint Legislative Budget Commission (LBC) approved a $31.3 million plan to place 300 members of the Florida National Guard in state prisons for nine months. The Department of Corrections (DOC) has long struggled to recruit and retain officers in Florida’s prisons. But while the agency says recent initiatives are helping the state start to recover employees, DOC is still short thousands of officers.
Florida searching for new ratings agency — The LBC voted unanimously Friday to spend $1.5 million on consultants to look for alternatives to Demotech, an Ohio-based ratings agency that angered state officials this summer when it threatened to downgrade 17 insurance companies. Demotech’s initial move to downgrade 17 Florida insurers in July angered Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier, both of whom wrote letters to Demotech President Joseph Petrelli and federal housing authority leaders to condemn the move. The consultants will provide recommendations to DeSantis and the Legislature, which could act on those suggestions during the 2023 Legislative Session.
Patronis proposes holding IRS agents accountable — With his latest draft measure ahead of the 2023 Session and re-election, Patronis wants to establish civil penalties against IRS employees and contractors who retaliate against Floridians for their politics. The legislation, announced Tuesday, marked his second proposal in six days in response to President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats’ plan to hire 87,000 IRS employees over the next decade. “With 87,000 new IRS personnel, there is absolutely no doubt that some of those new agents are going to target Floridians based on their political beliefs, and in my view, you don’t get to ruin someone’s life without having your own skin in the game,” Patronis said.
Officials react to Queen Elizabeth II’s death — Florida officials joined people and leaders throughout the world in mourning Queen Elizabeth’s death on Thursday. Officials recognized the Queen’s 70-year reign and her commitment to the American and British alliance and to free institutions. Following Biden’s lead, DeSantis ordered flags at half-staff until the evening of the Queen’s burial. “Throughout her time as Queen, she cultivated a friendship with the White House and met more United States presidents than any other head of state,” according to a memo from the Governor’s office. “Queen Elizabeth II will be remembered for her devotion to public service, commitment to duty, and her diligence to deepen the alliance between the United Kingdom and the United States of America.”
Flags will remain at half-staff for the next week until Queen Elizabeth is buried, but the United States has another reason to lower Old Glory this weekend.
Sunday marks the 21st anniversary of 9/11, and DeSantis is ordering flags be flown at half-staff on state and local land in honor of what is known as Patriot Day.
“May we never forget the valiant efforts of our military, first responders, and other emergency personnel who risked their lives to save others,” DeSantis wrote in a memo on Friday.
The order also includes a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., the minute the first plane struck the World Trade Center. The attacks killed 2,977 people and injured 25,000 others, and more people continue to suffer from effects of the attack.
“2022 marks 21 years since this devastating loss, and September 11 will forever serve as a reminder of the tremendous strength, unity and resilience of our great nation,” DeSantis wrote in his proclamation.
Congress has decreed Patriot Day as an annual day of service and remembrance.
“As Americans and Floridians, we must work together to defend our national security, uphold our founding principles of liberty and ensure that our nation remains the land of the free where such atrocious attacks can never again occur,” DeSantis wrote.
This article originally appeared here and was republished with permission.