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January 30, 2009

A call for more sentencing rationality in Florida

A helpful reader pointed me to this interesting artice from the latest Florida Bar Journal, titled "Unhandcuffing Justice: Proposals to Return Rationality to Criminal Sentencing."  Though the piece brings the most sunshine to sentencing laws and practices in the Sunshine State, it covers topics arising in every jurisdiction.  Here are snippets:

Americans love to be number one.  Unfortunately, we are now tops in two negative areas: debt and prisons....

[O]ur nation imprisons more people per capita than any other nation. Florida is leading this trend with the fastest growth of any state. A recent Pew Report noted that Florida “will run out of prison capacity by early 2009 and will need to add another 16,500 beds to keep pace.” With $65,000 per bed “as the best approximation for a typical medium security facility” and $19,308 per year for each Florida inmate, Florida must raise taxes, cut programs, or finance this $1.1 billion in initial capital costs plus an additional $314 million in annual recurring costs....

Our current approach to criminal justice sentencing is not only fiscally irresponsible — it is morally questionable.  This approach will result in a continuing, chronic economic crisis.

January 30, 2009 at 12:23 AM | Permalink


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I think you have a typo in your link. It also seems that floridabar.org is down at this time, which is too bad since I'm meeting with an Oregon state representative later today to talk about the effectiveness of prisons. I'm also a student of economics, and I believe that we should spend our money on proven investments, like infrastructure, and not on an expensive prison system that does not prevent crime or influence recidivism, and in fact is considered by some (an ex-con friend of mine) a "liberal arts college of crime."

With so many people in prison and expectations of more prisoners to come, it seems like the height of folly to continue to handle the problem of crime in the same way we have for decades despite getting the same results. I believe it was another study from Florida that said a likelihood of getting caught was a much greater preventative factor than the severity of the punishment and time spent in prison only effected recidivism if an individual pursued their education and that education levels were the single greatest indicator of a likelihood of offending again. So if they have no preventative value and little rehabilitative value, then I see no other conclusion than that every dollar spent on a prison instead of a school or a levee, is wasted.

Posted by: Christian | Jan 31, 2009 4:56:45 AM

You know there are people here in Florida, we are Inmate Advocates, who help them behind the razor wire, and have been singing for years this same song, but to deaf ears. You must remember who our Governor is and any reform in prison sentencing or otherwise is not going to happen. 99% of inmates in Florida Prisons are non-violent usually drug offenders, and their crimes always come back to involving drugs. Instead of any rehab, all we do is keep throwing them out and back they come. It's the Revolving Door syndrom. Our Parole Board needs to go, there are only approx 5000 inmates still under their fate, and they haven't left anyone out lately, they will be out of a job. We just try and make sure the men and women in our state Prisons, at least are safe and medically cared for. Most people have no idea what it's like behind that razor wire. I am not saying we should let them all out, there are some that don't need to be out, but we see a lot of short sentences by the counties, to get them out of their budgets and into DOC's which is all the taxpayers. It's pretty sad when we are cutting education, our future, and not making any real cuts in the things they should.

Posted by: OliveRose | Jan 31, 2009 9:40:23 PM

I am the mother of a 31 year old college graduate who is serving a nine year sentence for sexual battery (helpless victim). The crime sounds bad, but in reality it was sex with a woman passed out from too much to drink. I visited him today and get sick when i think of all the money that is being spent to keep many men (and women) behind the razor wire. They could be placed in much less restricted situations. However, my son faces a double whammy, not only will he have a prison record, he will also be listed as a sexual predator - that is adding another level of punishment. It is also adding another cost, as the government tries to keep track of the people who justly or unjustly have been named as sexual predators.

Posted by: Kathryn | Feb 7, 2009 9:46:40 PM

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