Tuesday was a busy day, and one policy area that got some well deserved attention in the form of ballot measures was criminal justice reform. Three states in particular, Florida, Colorado, and Louisiana made great strides with common sense constitutional amendments.
Florida just passed Amendment 4 which automatically restores the voting rights to convicted felons who have served their sentences. With the exception of those convicted of murder or sex crimes who still have the option of the appeals process to regain their voting rights. This amendment will give more than one million Floridians their voting rights back.
The state also passed Amendment 11, which removes the “Savings Clause” from the State Constitution which had prevented any sentencing reform from being retroactive. Because of this amendment, criminal justice reform efforts going forward will be much more impactful, as it will apply to past as well as future convictions.
Colorado just passed Amendment A which removes language that allowed slavery or involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime from the state constitution. The amendment changed the language of Article II, Section 26 of the Colorado State Constitution which reads: “There shall never be in this state either slavery or involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” The amendment removes the portion of the section that provides an exception. It now explicitly prohibits slavery or involuntary servitude in the state.
In Louisiana, Amendment 2, which passed with 64.4% of the vote, requires a unanimous 12 member jury in a felony conviction. The state constitution previously allowed for conviction with only 10 of 12 jurors assent. This is a step in the right direction for the pelican state, and leaves Oregon as the only state that does not require a unanimous Jury in felony convictions.
Tuesday was a good day for criminal justice reform. Colorado is protecting it’s imprisoned populations from slavery and indentured servitude, Florida is restoring voting rights and allowing for retroactive sentencing reform, and Louisiana is creating a unanimous jury standard. These are all positive steps, and the national trend right now is looking very good indeed for ensuring that there is justice in our criminal justice system.