Barney T Bishop III has no business representing that he is involved in “criminal justice reform” or “smart justice”. Those terms have been coined to mean a reforming of the criminal justice system so that it operates fairly and equitably and employing evidence-based, data-driven justice policies and practices to promote public safety through rehabilitation rather than retribution.
Barney Bishop is a registered lobbyist (https://www.floridalobbyist.gov/LobbyistInformation/LobbyistDetail/5126?year=2021&Branch=L) that represents multiple County Sheriff’s Offices. But when he presents himself to the legislature or to the media, he does so as “President and CEO of the Smart Justice Alliance” or “Citizens for Responsible Spending” as if he were representing a public interest group. The only interests behind the “alliance” or “citizens” are Barney Bishop’s interests.
In our opinion, anyone presenting themselves before the legislature or to the public in order to influence legislative action or public opinion should be candid about whose interests and opinions they represent. In our opinion, Mr. Bishop uses the confusingly named “Florida Smart Justice Alliance” or “Citizens for Responsible Spending” to cloud the identity of the actual principal upon whose behalf he is lobbying.
In the case of his opinion piece in last week’s Tallahassee Democrat, where he argued that the City Walk Homeless Shelter was operating illegally and should be removed, he conveniently failed to mention that he’s a lobbyist for the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Department and Wakulla County just lost a litigation to City Walk which cost the county $160,000 to settle (https://www.wtxl.com/news/local-news/wakulla-county-to-pay-160-000-to-settle-lawsuit-with-city-walk-urban-mission). Perhaps that would have given some context to his position.
In the case of his venomous replies to those who wrote to his “Alliance” to oppose his offensive comments about persons required to register, he was completely unhinged, even implying he would shoot them (his words were “Just respond to this email, or try to ever contact me again…I’m a former private investigator, and I’m an NRA member,”).
Here is video of his testimony before the legislature, where he referred to the earlier testimony of our President Gail Colletta and suggested, “We think that very long sentences are warranted; in fact, we’d like longer sentences. And I would just say in closing that with respect to smart justice that maybe what we ought to really be doing is thinking about giving the victims’ families an opportunity to have visitation with the perpetrators and a pair of scissors. That’s our idea of smart justice, Mr. Chairman, not anything short of that.”
At least we all now know who we are dealing with.