After a string of police-involved incidents that lead to the deaths and maimings of several African-Americans across the country, a call for criminal justice reform was heard loud and clear by Reps. Troy Nehls (R) and Val Demings (D) in the U.S. Congress.
“The Criminal justice system is broken in many ways and one of them is reentry," stated Rep. Troy Nehls in an interview with The Floridian.
On May 25, 2021, freshman Rep. Nehls introduced his very first legislative measure, the Second Chance Opportunity for Re-Entry Education Act of 2021 or the SCORE Act of 2021.
Rep. Nehls, who is a former Sheriff, reached out to Rep. Demings and other Republicans and Democrats about backing his bill to give former criminals a pathway to prosperity, or a “second chance” to “opportunity.”
Rep. Demings, along with other Democrats—Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Colin Allred, Vicente Gonzalez, Mike Thompson, Kathy Castor, Andre Carson, Henry Cuellar, Tim Ryan, Bennie Thompson, Ed Case, and David Trone—all signed on as cosponsors.
Demings put out a press release to announce her support for the measure, but that support was short-lived, as the former Orlando Chief of Police and current Senatorial candidate has decided to pull her name from Rep. Nehls’ criminal justice reform bill, a move that could be seen as political in nature.
“As a Chief of Police, I saw too often the ‘revolving door’ of the justice system, where a minor offense could break down a person’s life. America must provide an alternate path. As we work to build a safer, more prosperous nation for all, it is vital that we give prisoners who have served their time a second chance to rejoin society and be good citizens and good neighbors. I am glad to cosponsor this bipartisan legislation to give nonviolent prisoners a chance to learn a trade skill and help them rejoin society. By breaking the cycle of recidivism and preventing individuals from reoffending, we keep everyone safe. It’s the right thing to do, and the smart thing too,” stated Demings
According to Nehls, Demings backed out as a cosponsor because of a comment he made on Fox News Channel’s “Tucker Carlson” TV program.
What did Nehls say that would prompt Demings from pulling her support for a criminal justice reform bill?
“So, Val and I were going to go to Jerry Nadler, because it falls under the Judiciary, and then I make some comments about Ashli Babbitt on January 6th and Val Demings says, ‘I can’t support you on this now,” said Nehls. She backed off,” saying, “I can’t be with you on this now.
Ashli Babbitt was the young woman that was shot and killed by Capitol Police during the January 6th riot on Capitol Hill.
Nehls, who believes that Demings is an “honorable woman,” said that “Ashli Babbitt was murdered” and that her shooting should have gone to a “Grand Jury” to be investigated, adding that while he was sheriff, his department took all their police-involved shootings to the grand jury.
“It was good legislation and now it’s not because I said something about Ashli Babbitt that you don’t agree with,” questioned Nehls of Demings.
Nehls, who says he will support a law enforcement bill Demings has introduced that would increase homicide detectives, regardless of her backing out of his SCORE Act.
“Why would she take her name off of mine because I said something about Ashli Babbitt. I think is just no, there is no justification for that. It’s good legislation. She agreed to it, and now all of a sudden she doesn’t,” concluded Nehls
According to the U.S. House of Representatives records, Demings is still listed as a cosponsor even though she told Nehls she would not support it.
The measure was penned after the actions he took as sheriff, where he constructed buildings to help train inmates, non-violent inmates, learn a vocational trade so that they can get back on their feet and enter society as productive members.