Center for Smart Justice

About the Center

The Center for Smart Justice is centered on the belief that public safety is paramount, and because of the magnitude of this responsibility, there truly is no room for inefficiency. The Center’s research focuses on evidence-based reforms to Florida’s criminal and juvenile justice systems that ensure less crime, fewer victims, and no wasted tax dollars.

As with all government services, accountability in the vital areas of criminal and juvenile justice demands achieving the best results in terms of public safety at the lowest possible cost to taxpayers. This is what we call Smart Justice.

Smart Justice Means:

  • Increasing Public Safety
  • Stopping the Juvenile Pipeline into Adult Crime and Incarceration
  • Strategic Investments in Appropriate, Evidence-based Interventions
  • Reducing Costly Recidivism
  • Reducing Unsustainable Costs of Prison Maintenance and Growth
  • Saving Precious Taxpayer Resources While Reducing Crime
  • Holding Offenders Accountable
  • Ensuring Ex–offenders Return to our Communities as Productive and Employable Members of Society

Advisory Board


General Bob Butterworth
Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC


Sec. Wansley Walters
Ballard Partners

Mr. Lester Abberger

B.L. Abberger & Company

Dr. Nate Adams

Holland & Knight

Ms. Lori Costantino-Brown

Bridges of America

Sheriff Don Eslinger

Seminole County

Mr. Reginald Garcia

Reginald R. Garcia, Esq.

Ms. Stacy Gromatski

FL Network of Youth & Family Services

Secretary Julie Jones

Department of Corrections

Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp

Mr. Dan McCarthy

First District Court of Appeal

Mr. Dale Recinella, JD/MTS

Chaplain, Florida's Death Row

Mr. James D. Sewell, Ph.D.

FDLE Assistant Commissioner (Ret.)

Honorable Irene Sullivan

Judge, 13th Circuit Court (Ret.)

Mr. Parker Thomson

Hogan Lovells U.S., LLP

Honorable Stephen Wise

Florida State Senator

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Recent Center Research

Corrections in Context

01/2017 // To identify areas in need of improvement, this report is a longitudinal analysis of the state’s sentencing, incarceration, prisoner, and correctional budget histories.

Discretion on the Bench

09/2016 // This report recommends the implementation of a “Judicial Safety Valve” that would give judges the discretion to deviate from mandatory minimums for low-level offenders, but maintain the rights of victims, offenders, their attorneys, and the state to have input on sentencing decisions at sentencing hearings.

Juvenile Pre-Arrest Diversion

08/2016 // This briefing explores Juvenile Pre-Arrest Diversion programs, which re-route certain juvenile offenders in ways that hold them accountable while sparing them from an arrest record and lessening the burden on taxpayers.

Locked Up then Locked Out

07/2016 // To decrease recidivism and increase the return on state investment in corrections, offenders need to be able to find jobs and keep them; however, there are several barriers to this goal. This paper addresses some of these barriers and makes policy recommendations.

Lower Costs & Less Crime

05/2016 // Florida can no longer rely on the outdated and inefficient policies of the past, and must begin to consider policies and practices that not only keep Floridians safe, but also address the two primary drivers of growth in the criminal justice system: overincarceration and recidivism. The recommendations detailed in this report, while by no means an exhaustive list of necessary improvements, aim to put Florida on the path to achieve these goals.

Florida's Aging Prisoner Problem

10/2014 // Florida's prison population is rapidly increasing despite declining crime rates, and this report recommends options to prevent increasing costs from overwhelming taxpayers. The report warns that the steadily growing elderly prison population in state facilities will require more costly medical care, resulting in additional budget concerns for an already struggling Department of Corrections.

Over-Criminalization in Florida

04/2014 // Florida could save significant corrections costs by reducing prison sentences for nonviolent offenders, according to data analysis in this report. The report calls for the state to review options to reduce the prison population through downgrading offenses and implementing alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent, level one and two offenders.

When it Costs More to Pay Less

03/2014 // Florida's Assistant State Attorneys and Assistant Public Defenders are significantly undercompensated, as shown in findings from this research report. The new report analyzes Assistant State Attorney and Assistant Public Defender pay across each of Florida's judicial circuits and finds that their low pay contributes to high turnover rates, causing delays in judicial processing and increased taxpayer investment in new employee training, costing taxpayers more than $15 million annually.

Sentencing for Oxycodone and Hydrocodone Offenses

01/2014 // This Briefing recommends that the state decriminalize the possession of minor amounts of oxycodone and hydrocodone, and lower mandatory minimums to save significant tax dollars, reduce prison populations, and help shift the focus to treatment for substance abuse problems.

An Adult Civil Citation Program Can Save Taxpayer Dollars

01/2014 // This Briefing recommends that the state put in place the guidelines for an Adult Civil Citation program, patterned on the existing Juvenile Civil Citation program, which offers an alternative process to misdemeanor arrest for first-time nonviolent youth offenders.

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106 N. BRONOUGH ST., TALLAHASSEE, FL 32301     |     TEL: 850.222.5052     |     FAX: 850.222.7476
TEL: 850.222.5052     |     FAX: 850.222.7476

Media Inquiries:  Contact Leah Courtney by Email or Phone: 850.212.5052

Media Inquiries:
Contact Leah Courtney by Email
or Phone: 850.212.5052

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