King Launches Statewide ‘Turning the Tide’ Tour, Calls for Criminal Justice Reform

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. –– Today, Orlando-area entrepreneur and Democratic candidate for governor Chris King kicked off his statewide “Turning the Tide” tour, laying out his policies to reform Florida’s broken criminal justice system and highlighting why Florida needs fresh ideas and new leadership to tackle the state’s most pressing needs.

King unveiled his criminal justice reform platform at a roundtable discussion with State Representative and candidate for Attorney General Sean Shaw and Tampa Bay community leaders in St. Petersburg.

“Florida needs fresh ideas and new leadership to reform its broken criminal justice system,” Chris King said. “‘Turning the tide’ means reforming a system that needlessly criminalizes tens of thousands of nonviolent men and women in Florida. I reject the conventional politics of just seeking incremental change –– we’ve got to fight for bold, progressive ideas to make our justice system fair while keeping Floridians safe.”

King’s proposals to reform Florida’s broken criminal justice system focus on six central areas:

  • Reducing Mass Incarceration. Florida’s crime and incarceration rates are in the top 10 nationally. King believes Florida’s goal should be to reduce mass incarceration by 25 percent in the next five years and 50 percent in the next 10 years with proper sentencing reform for non-violent offenders. To reduce mass incarceration, King supports eliminating harsh mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent crimes, instituting gain-time reform and pursuing civil citation programs.

  • Legalizing Marijuana. King believes the time has come to legalize marijuana for recreational use and tax it. Criminalizing marijuana has resulted in increased spending in incarcerating non-serious offenders and strained relations with the police. For example, African Americans in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties are at least six times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as white people. King supports legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana for recreational use.

  • Restoration of Voting Rights. King supports Amendment 4 to restore the rights of 1.6 million Floridians who haven’t had their civil and voting rights restored because no one who has paid their debt to society should be denied the right to vote. Additionally, King supports reinstating reforms made by Gov. Charlie Crist attempting to stop delaying or outright ignoring requests by ex-felons for restoration of voting rights and other civil rights.

  • Ending Private Prisons. Rick Scott hands out private prison contracts like candy, promising that they will lower costs while not a single dollar of savings has been confirmed. Private prisons in Florida absorb $142 million taxpayer dollars each year yet produce inexcusable conditions for prisoners and fail to lower the recidivism rate. King supports terminating private prison contracts to end this inefficient and abusive waste of taxpayer money.

  • Ending the Death Penalty. King is opposed to the death penalty. He will pursue all legislative and constitutional avenues to seeing its end and replacement with life imprisonment without parole –– including legislative repeal, commutation of death row sentences by himself and two members of the Florida Cabinet, declining to issue death warrants, and using the power of his line-item veto pen to reject appropriations that enable the operation of the state’s death penalty.

  • Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline. Using an estimated $850 million – $1.05 billion in cost savings and revenue from the proposals above, King will reinvest in Florida’s programs that help to end the school-to-prison pipeline:

    • K-12 Education. Funds saved from King’s plan can be used to reinvest back in our school communities, paying for school programming that serves as an alternative to school suspensions as a punishment.

    • State Colleges and Universities. Savings from the plan can be used for programming at state colleges and universities to help students enter and succeed in an academic environment. This money can be used to help fund King’s universal community college and public trade school proposal.

    • Justice System and Corrections. Funding would be used to reinvest in our justice and corrections systems, helping local communities enforce the law and rehabilitate inmates.

    • Childcare and Early Childhood Development. Funding an expansion of the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program will help more students get a head start on their education and graduate successfully from high school.