From Florida’s earliest days as a state, legislators have consciously designed policies that target those who were without any real legal and economic power, and most times, these were Black Floridians. Such policies included vagrancy laws that carried hefty fines and convict leasing where people who were found guilty of even the pettiest crimes were chained together and forced to perform physical labor in order to enrich private corporations and strengthen the state’s economic development growth. Instead of investing in institutions like education, housing, and jobs that could help formerly enslaved people to live like full citizens, Florida’s legislature prioritized creating a criminal system that entraps Black Floridians in criminal debt, forced servitude, and incarceration. From 1983, Florida’s incarcerated population has risen by 265%. Although policies such as Black codes are no longer in Florida’s criminal code, their impacts are still present and visible today, and Black Floridians are still carrying the brunt of them.
Image Source: Florida Memory
Image Description: Man holding a sign with words “Equal treatment under the law” during a demonstration, 1963