By Vivien M.L. Miller
From 1889 to 1918, greater than 11,000 people have been convicted and sentenced to the challenging labour camps of Florida's piney woods sector. Vivien Miller offers the 1st extensive exam of the workings of Florida's pardon board and penal process in this interval, referred to as the innovative period.
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Additional resources for Crime, sexual violence, and clemency: Florida's pardon board and penal system in the Progressive Era
The integration of Florida into the racial, political, and economic mainstream did not eradicate its distinctive features, while gender and class relations were deeply affected by new capital formations and subsequent punishment regimes. Pardon cases, nonetheless, underline the fluidity of race, class, and gender relations in Florida before 1900 and in the first decades of the twentieth century. While one must be careful not to exaggerate the extent of fluidity either before or after 1890, even in the face of longstanding de facto segregation and after codification of segregation and disfranchisement, it appears that the transitional period of fluidity is perhaps longer in Florida than for other southern states.
Sociologist James Barnett viewed the continued existence of pardons as an anachronistic holdover from the divine right of kings that was couched in “language suited to the theory of the personal rule of the absolute monarch, ” and out of place in a modern democracy “where the executive is but an agent of the sovereign. 17 Florida governors were required to present biennial reports to the state legislature. These listed all pardons, commutations, reprieves, and remissions, and gave the name of the recipients, the crimes for which they were convicted, the sentences imposed, the dates and counties of conviction, and the dates when the application was granted.
The pardon power was nevertheless a means of asserting the power of the state over its subjects. The conservative priorities of the men who sat on Florida’s Board of Pardons and who ran the state’s criminal justice system predominated. They saw it as their duty to preserve order, protect respectable citizens from the threatening activities of offenders, approve retributive and deterrent punishment, and ensure collectively the fair and proper administration of criminal justice and the paramount place of security considerations.