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Florida County Approves Equitable Criminal Sentencing Technology

Florida's Eighth Judicial Circuit will become Florida's first circuit to integrate so-called equitable sentencing software as part of its case management system and plea-bargaining process, reports WUFT. About 95 percent of cases are settled in plea negotiations. A joint effort between Alachua County state attorney Brian Kramer and public defender Stacy Scott was finalized Tuesday evening. “We feel like this is an important step forward in trying to create more parity in our criminal justice system so that there aren’t these disparate sentences that exist today,” Scott said when she and Kramer presented the system to county commissioners in August.

The new software, Equity in Sentencing Analysis System (ESAS) provides legal practitioners with a searchable database of statewide sentencing data from the Florida Department of Corrections. This enables them to analyze past sentences for people with similar criminal backgrounds. Scott said this system would allow for more honesty and consistency in plea negotiations. The system integration will cost Alachua County $73,000, followed by an annual subscription cost of $23,000 for each office. Software owner Al Barlow said he was motivated by witnessing what he called unfair sentencing, but when he presented the concept to the state Senate Judiciary Committee, their response was not helpful. He founded his company, Technologies for Justice, with the help of a programmer he found himself. Some attorneys, Scott and Kramer included, said the system is not the end-all-be-all. Instead, it's one of the many factors to consider when determining fair sentences and combating intrinsic bias. Only 150 attorneys in Florida are currently registered to use the software.


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