Letters to the Editor

Amendment 11 could lead to justice reforms

I fear the Miami Herald’s Oct. 7 editorial, “Victims, felons, dogs part of state’s 12 Amendments,” missed the value and significance of the proposal for Amendment 11.

The proposal asks voters to modify Article X, Section 9 of the state constitution, known as the “savings clause,” which prohibits any change to a criminal statute from being applied retroactively — to alter the sentence of anyone who was convicted under the statute’s previous iteration. If Amendment 11 passes, the legislature will be allowed to make amended criminal statutes apply retroactively.

Yes, the NRA supports this proposal, but this alone can’t be a sufficient basis for opposing it. The Southern Poverty Law Center, The Florida Public Defender Association, Families Against Mandatory Minimums and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida also support proposed Amendment 11.

Fear of the NRA’s motives should not lead us to oppose a change that could affect tens of thousands of Floridians now filling our prisons. The modification of the savings clause could be crucial to criminal justice reform efforts.

Over the years, the legislature enacted some counter-productive policies that contributed to over-incarceration and a large and aging prison population. Now, more than half of those in Florida’s prisons are there for non-violent offenses. Our state is using prisons as an alternative to treatment for mental illnesses and substance abuse.

As policy-makers look at the effects of counter-productive polices they enacted, reforms permitting judges to revise a sentence the legislature may see as unnecessarily harsh can be crucial to addressing our intolerable status quo. That is why approval of Amendment 11 on Nov. 6 is so important.

Howard Simon,

executive director,

American Civil Liberties Union of Florida