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Three Bills, One Goal: Loosen Florida’s Mandatory Minimum Laws

November 13th, 2017 by Jake Stofan
Certain drug crimes come with mandatory minimum sentences meaning when a person is convicted, they have to serve a minimum term by law.
Some Florida lawmakers say the policies don’t work and are over crowding the state prisons, costing tax payers millions of dollars.
Three proposals in the Legislature would give judges the option to give out lesser sentences.
Housing more than 100,000 inmates costs Florida tax payers $2.4 billion a year.
Thousands have been given mandatory sentences for drug dealing…in some cases, for small amounts.
“It’s become a prison industrial complex. It’s very very costly,” said Dominic Calabro, President of Florida Tax Watch.
Now, Legislation filed for the 2018 session would allow judges to divert from minimum mandatory sentences for certain drug charges.
“This is a good way of giving judges appropriate digression, saving tax payers money,” said Calabro.
One proposal allows judges to reduce sentences for the lowest mandatory minimums of 3 years.
A second bill, Sponsored by Senator Jeff Brandes, would apply to all drug related mandatory minimums, but only for non violent first offenders.

A nearly identical bill has also been filed in the House, but it would only allow judges to reduce mandatory minimum sentences to 1/3 of their original  length.
Opponents argue current law sets possession amounts so high, no average users ever get a mandatory minimum.
“I mean for pot you’re talking about 25 pounds of pot, up to 200 pounds of pot,” said Barney Bishop with the Florida Smart Justice Alliance.
But there are examples of individuals selling or in possession of opiate prescriptions.
When measured by weight, relatively small amounts can result in lengthy prison sentences, even for a first offense.
“Our bill simply allows judges to look at the individual facts of the case and figure out whether he’s dealing with a drug kingpin or an addict,” said Senator Brandes.
An estimated 1,500 Florida prisoners behind bars for selling painkillers have never previously been imprisoned.
They’re costing tax payers more than $29 million each year.

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