Andrew Warren, Sen. Jeff Brandes and others to speak at Tampa Criminal Justice Summit | Tampa Bay News | Tampa

Later this month, the first-ever Tampa Bay Criminal Justice Summit will bring together leaders from across the state to discuss how to address key issues in Florida’s justice system.

The event, hosted by Horizon Communities in Prison and Florida Prison Allied Partners (FPAP), includes a diverse group of community leaders, attorneys, returning citizens and their families, and elected officials from across the state. . Sen. Jeff Brandes is expected to attend, along with former Hillsborough State’s Attorney Andrew Warren and state representatives Susan Valdes and Dianne Hart.

The summit will take place October 29 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Tampa Preparatory School, 727 W. Cass St. Tickets can be purchased through the Horizon Communities website.

Former State’s Attorney Warren, who is currently locked in a legal battle with Gov. Ron DeSantis about his impeachment — will speak at the summit panel on the school-to-jail pipeline.

“Public safety demands that we put at-risk children on the path to becoming law-abiding, productive adults,” Warren told CL in a written statement. “We had great success at Hillsborough with our approach to youth crime balancing punishment, accountability and prevention, and I look forward to a productive summit on how we continue to move forward.”

Senator Brandes will participate in a discussion on the state of Florida’s criminal justice system in general, as well as options for reform. “I can’t wait to talk about diversion, the prison education system, mandatory minimum sentences, and what we’re going to do to reintegrate into society,” Brandes told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.

These conversations at the summit will be vital for the community, Brandes said, to educate the public on how they can advocate with the State of Florida for reform.

“A lot of these topics are things the legislature has no real core jurisdiction over, and they need to have core discussions in order to help facilitate new ideas,” Brandes added.

Brandes was prison reform advocate for years, but also drew critical for saying returning citizens shouldn’t start with a minimum wage of $15 and an hour, and instead suggested a training wage suitable for people with criminal records. He argued that it would be difficult for returning citizens to find employment when competing with the general public.

Florida is in the midst of a crisis in its prisons, as National Guard troops have been called in to replace prison guards. At the same time, the state decrepit parole system was examined for making it difficult for the incarcerated to achieve freedom.

The emergency in Florida’s prison system makes this the perfect time for the community to discuss important issues at the summit, said Vanessa Grullon of FPAP, a grassroots prison reform organization that helped organize the event. .

“What makes this event special is that we bring defenders from all over the state, and not only that, we bring people from all walks of life to the table,” Grullon told CL.

Grullon, whose husband was once incarcerated, said this summit will give everyone a voice, including returning citizens who have been directly impacted by Florida’s prison system. She pointed to the conditions that people inside prisons face, including no air conditioning or heating, mold and other dangerous conditions.

FPAP’s Donn Scott previously worked for the Southern Poverty Law Center and spent years organizing justice in the prison system. He’s a returning citizen, and he took the initiative to start organizing the event.

“I just felt there was a need to do something like this in the area,” Scott said. “So I contacted a group of my friends who work in the industry and asked if they were available.”

What started as a handshake has now attracted the participation of several justice groups, elected officials and people in the education sector, including Tampa Prep Schools Superintendent Kevin Plummer. He will also speak at the panel on the school-to-prison pipeline.

“To be honest with you, it’s kind of personal,” Plummer said. “I can see inside my own family and inside my own neighborhood that I grew up in, the differences that education, mentorship and commitment have made for some, but not for others. ‘others. Part of it was in my own family, who entered the life of crime and served their time.

Plummer said law enforcement must avoid treating children like criminals, and educators must do their best to prepare children to have choices, opportunities, and to make positive choices.

Barbara Richards of the Sarasota-based nonprofit Project 180 will speak about reintegrating formerly incarcerated into society.

She told CL she looked forward to “discussing the progressive initiatives that are available to people returning to our communities.”

Attorney Keith Harris will speak in detail about the sentence appeal process during the forum. Harris said when people are involved in the criminal justice system, it’s important for them to have a basic underlying knowledge of their rights.

“Our books are full of people who spent years in jail, just to get their basic appeal rights back just because of a simple miscommunication or mistake,” he said.

Summit topics will include:

  • back to school
  • Channeling from school to prison
  • The invisible victim: the families of the incarcerated
  • How to Advocate for Criminal Justice Reform
  • Sentencing reform: Is parole coming to Florida
  • Indoor conditions: is your air conditioning working?
  • Appeal process: what are your options once you are incarcerated?

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