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Florida Will Bring More Transparency to Its Justice System

After a bill passed by the Florida legislature is signed into law, the Sunshine State will gather more criminal-justice data and release it to the public.
A man is taken into custody at the Bay County Sheriff's Office mobile booking unit during spring break in Panama City Beach, Florida.
A man is taken into custody at the Bay County Sheriff's Office mobile booking unit during spring break in Panama City Beach, Florida. Michael Spooneybarger/Reuters

The Sunshine State is about to shine a light on its own criminal-justice system: Florida will soon become the first state in the country to require all of its counties to release certain data pertaining to jails, policing, prisons, and courts. A bill passed by the state legislature earlier this month requires counties to gather, standardize, and release significantly more data than before. (The bill awaits signing by Governor Rick Scott.)

The anonymized, county-level data required by the bill includes: pre-trial release decisions; the case outcomes of indigent defendants; case outcomes broken down by ethnicity; recidivism rates after defendants are released from prison or probation; and other information, such as a court’s annual misdemeanor caseload. Prosecutors will also have to disclose their plea offers. The bill requires counties to report about 25 percent more data than they do now, according to Wired.