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Sentencing Reform could save taxpayers

March 6th, 2017 by Mike Vasilinda


On the eve of Florida’s annual legislative session, A decades old tough on crime policy is raising concerns about cost and fairness. A new coalition launched today features liberal and conservative groups, and business leaders and lawyers. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, the coalitions goal is to keep people out of prison while keeping us safe.

Florida’s prison population hovers around 100 thousand, costing taxpayers 2.3 billion each year. But Now, legislation to end prison sentences for non violent drug offenders has been given unanimous approval from the Senate Criminal Justice Committee where Sen. Daryl rouson convinced members his idea would be a money saver.

“Its more expensive to incarcerate someone than to give them treatment. So when someone is arrested for minor drug possession, Not sales. Not trafficking, Not intent to deliver, but possession, addicts, it makes sense to give them treatment” says Rouson.

There are 118 minimum mandatory laws on the books. but many experts, like Natalie Kato of the  Campaign for Criminal Justice Reform believe they have outlived their usefulness.

“Somebody who had a number of prescription pills, maybe even for their own use, could ultimately be serving a ten or fifteen year sentence” says Kato.

Sal Nuzzo works the conservatives James Madison Institute.

“If something is in statute that is not serving its intended purposes, in either protecting the public or diverting tax dollars we should be looking at reforming that” says Nuzzo.

Put another way, the new theory is, just because we’re mad at you for breaking the rules, doesn’t mean we can afford to lock you up and throw away the key.

“Bad folks need to be put away” says Rouson.  “And some bad folks need to be put away for a long time. But in other instances, we need to besmear about the administration of justice” says Rouson.

The legislation is a small step, reducing the need for a thousand prison beds at a saving projected to be at least 130 million over 5 years.

While prison costs are expected to go down, the staff analysis for the bill suggests costs for the Office of Offender rehabilitation could go up by as much as 50 thousand dollars a year to handle an increased caseload.

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