Dianne Hart has sight set on inmate rights as 2021 Session approaches

Hillsborough County Rep. Dianne Hart has her sights set on championing inmate rights in the upcoming Legislative Session. 

Through a series of new and refiled bills, Hart is focusing on the rehabilitation and conditions of inmates within Florida’s criminal justice system. 

One bill Hart is refiling is optimistically titled “Oversight of Correctional Facilities,” which seeks to provide independent oversight over correctional centers across the state. The measure would establish a council made up of former inmates and industry professionals and would rely on appointments from leadership in the Florida Legislature. 

“I believe that this DOJ report should show that we need somebody else looking at people, as opposed to them looking at themselves — it’s critical,” Hart said. “I think this year, though, we stand a better chance of people paying attention to it, because they see what’s happening.”

Although Hart filed the bill in the 2020 Session, it died in the Criminal Justice Subcomittee. But, with the recently released federal investigation that uncovered myriad abuses at Lowell Correctional Institution, the bill may have be met with more attention than it did before. 

The 34-page report found “varied and disturbing reports” of sexual abuse, including

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