Crime Report Publishes
SAO’s Miami-Style ‘Virtual’ Justice During COVID

This story was originally featured in the Crime Report published by the  Center on Media, Crime and Justice at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

COVID-19 has caused many businesses in the Miami-Dade region to cease operation, but it has not prevented us or the courts from doing our jobs.

At the Miami-Dade County (Florida) State Attorney’s Office, we are doing our part to prevent the virus from spreading while fulfilling our public safety responsibilities.

We partnered with local stakeholders, including the courts, the Clerk’s Office, Corrections, and the Public Defender’s Office and defense bars to develop and execute measures that ensure the wheels of justice keep turning.

Drawing on our prior experience managing other major crises like hurricanes, we transitioned to “mission-critical” status quickly and smoothly.

The transition to virtual systems has not been easy.

Our Leadership Team and Information Systems staff worked long hours to create new processes that allow us to serve the public with innovative resources like “virtual courtrooms” and other tools that help staff remain productive while working remotely.

Though we returned to operational status in June, the virtual pathways we created allow most of our 1,200 employees to work from home on any given day. This enables us to fulfill our responsibilities while protecting our most precious resource, our staff.

Below are some of the changes we have made:

  • New procedures permit us to obtain defendants’ state and national priors, review and assign cases, and electronically file and serve all our legal pleadings, including charging documents, quickly and efficiently.
  • Kiosks at the Juvenile Assessment Center and our main building allow prosecutors to interview victims, witnesses and police officers remotely.
  • A variety of new systems facilitate virtual conferences, meetings, interviews, pre-files, and courtrooms. As part of this mammoth effort, Information Systems configured and distributed an additional 308 laptops to SAO staff, provided the Administrative Office of the Courts with 235 webcams, and gave the Miami-Dade Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (MDCR) 20 laptops to facilitate their participation in “virtual court.”

    You can continue reading this story at theCrimeReport.org.

The Crime Report (TCR) is the nation’s only comprehensive news service covering the diverse challenges and issues of 21st century criminal justice in the U.S. and abroad. Staffed by working journalists in New York, Washington and Los Angeles, it is published daily through the year by the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. TCR’s prizewinning coverage includes investigative reports by the some of the nation’s most accomplished reporters; analysis, blogs and commentary by leading criminologists, practitioners, law enforcement/corrections professionals, and legal experts; reports on new and cutting-edge research; and daily summaries of the most important criminal justice news, issues and developments covered by the national and international press.

ACJS’s Justice Evaluation Journal features 21st Century Prosecutions – Miami-Style Smart Justice

The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) is an international association established in 1963 to foster professional and scholarly activities in the field of criminal justice.
Justice Evaluation Journal is published by Routledge Journals under full editorial control of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences.

The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) publishes its Justice Evaluation Journal four times each year.  The peer reviewed journal’s recent edition features an article authored by State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle and Chief Assistant State Attorney Stephen Talpins. Entitled “21st Century Prosecutions – Miami-Style Smart Justice,”  the article highlights the State Attorney’s Office that strategically addresses offenders as individuals and employs an evidence-based outcome-oriented approach that maximizes public safety, provides avenues for rehabilitation, saves jail and prison space for the most dangerous offenders, minimizes unintended collateral consequences, meets crime victims’ needs, and reduces costs.

NDAA highlights ‘Miami-Style Smart Justice’ in
The Prosecutor Magazine

Each month, the National District Attorneys Association publishes The Prosecutor magazine, the premiere publication for prosecutors around the country. This month’s edition features an article by State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle and Chief Assistant State Attorney Stephen Talpins. The duo partnered to inform the nation about, “21st Century Prosecutions —Miami-Style Smart Justice.”

The article reads: Historically, prosecutors and judges relied almost exclusively on punitive measures, most notably jail or prison sentences, to address and deter criminal activity. However, the traditional punitive approach to justice is unduly expensive, does not work as well as it should, and has unnecessary and devastating consequences for lower level offenders and their families. Thus, we do things differently in MiamiDade County, Florida. We distinguish between offenders who can be rehabilitated from those who present a real, present, and future danger to our society. We strive to rehabilitate those we can help, while incapacitating those who would do our community real harm despite our best efforts to assist them.

In 1989, we created the nation’s first drug court. Since that time, much has changed, though our approach to justice has not. While more and more district attorneys have begun to experiment with what some call “progressive” solutions, strategic remedial measures that reduce crime, improve lives, and save money are a matter of tradition in Miami-Dade County. Click here to access the complete article.