Florida Public Defender Blaise Trettis on Racial Disparity in Sentencing & ESAS Software

On June 4, 2020, the Public Defender for the 18th Circuit of Florida, Blaise Trettis, wrote the following email to A. Wellington Barlow, the founder and creator of ESAS, (Equity in Sentencing Analysis System).

Dear Mr. Barlow:

I don’t know if I’ve ever sent you this collection of materials pertaining to racial disparity in sentencing in Florida. Please feel free to forward these materials and this email as you see fit. There is significant, and disturbing, findings in the studies that have been done on racial disparity in sentencing in Florida. The 1992 study by the State of Florida ( first attachment) of the habitual offender statute found that the habitual offender statute was used by prosecutors and judges in a racially disparate way against blacks. The Sarasota Herald Tribune series “Bias on the Bench” found significant racial disparity in sentencing throughout Florida (except in the 11th Circuit for Dade County if my memory is correct). Though it’s been many months since I read the Bias on the Bench series, my recollection is that the study concluded that statewide blacks are sentenced to 60% more prison time under the Florida Criminal Punishment Code than are whites when convicted of the same charges with the same criminal record of the defendant. The Bias on the Bench series even studies sentencing by race of the judge. My recollection is that black women judges sentence to more prison time than any other race and gender of judge in Florida, but that there was no racial disparity in the black women judges’ sentences. The esteemed panelists of the June 9, 2020 forum “George Floyd, Where do we go from HERE?” might be interested in having these materials. I wish you continued success with your ground-breaking sentencing computer software Equity in Sentencing Analysis System (ESAS).

Please check out my interview of Barlow on Florida You Judge about a year ago about ESAS (video below)

Articles cited by Trettis in his email:

Bias on the bench – first story “Florida’s broken sentencing system”
Bias on the bench – second story “Tough on Crime”
Bias on the bench – third story “Gainesville’s war on drugs”
Bias on the bench – fourth story “Race and politics influence judicial decisions”

Bias on the bench – “How We Did It”
Bias on the bench – data – “Explore each county’s racial disparities in sentencing”
Bias on the bench – Judges Fight Back – “Judges defend role in sentencing with flawed study”
Bias on the bench – Fact Checking The 12th Circuit – “Fact Checking the 12th Circuit’s “final response”
Influence & Injustice “An investigation into the power of prosecutors”
The Palm Beach Post “Influence & Injustice – Public Defenders”
The Florida Bar News “Software to compare sentences expanding statewide”
Study on racial disparity effects of habitual felony offenders in Florida
Rebutting the New College Study
An Empirical Examination of the Application of Florida’s Habitual Offender Statute Aug. 1992 (attached)
The Florida Senate: Review The Criminal Punishment Code and Sentencing Judges’ Assessment Nov. 2005 (attached)
The Impact of the 1994 and 1995 Structured Sentencing Policies in Florida Mar. 1997 (attached)

Bias on the Bench Series Awards
Florida Public Defender Association: L. Clayton Nance Award: https://www.heraldtribune.com/news/20170728/bias-earns-state-award
The Society of Professional Journalism Florida Chapter: Gene Miller Award for Investigative Reporting https://spjflorida.com/sunshine-state-awards/2017-winners/
First Amendment Foundation Freedom of Information Award from the Society of Professional Journalists’: http://floridafaf.org/spj-first-amendment-foundation-award/
Florida Bar Top Media Award: https://www.heraldtribune.com/news/20171004/bias-series-earns-h-t-reporters-top-florida-bar-award
Robert F. Kennedy Award: https://www.heraldtribune.com/news/20170505/bias-on-bench-wins-robert-f-kennedy-award
Associated Press Media Editors National Public Service Award: https://www.heraldtribune.com/news/20170404/herald-tribunes-sentencing-series-wins-national-public-service-award
Society of Professional Journalists’ national Sigma Delta Chi Award: https://www.heraldtribune.com/news/20170504/herald-tribunes-bias-series-wins-another-national-journalism-award
GateHouse Media Newspaper of the Year: https://www.heraldtribune.com/news/20170426/h-t-wins-top-award-from-parent-gatehouse-media
Society of Professional Journalist Sunshine State Awards: https://www.heraldtribune.com/news/20170723/herald-tribune-brings-home-22-spj-journalism-awards


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