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Florida

On Tuesday, March 22, 2011, the Right on Crime campaign launched in Florida with support from the following Right on Crime signatories: former state Attorney General Richard Doran, Dominic Calabro of Florida TaxWatch, and Bob McClure of the James Madison Institute. In September of 2011, former Florida governor Jeb Bush signed onto Right on Crime’s statement of principles and has continued to be a driving force for the Florida initiative.

In 2017, Right on Crime hired Chelsea Murphy as a full-time State Director to advocate for conservative criminal justice reform policies for the Sunshine State. Chelsea currently works and resides in Tallahassee, Florida.

Recent Reforms

In 2018, the legislature passed and the governor signed a comprehensive reform package (SB 1392), which will create a one-stop portal that could make Florida a leader in criminal justice data collection and dissemination. It provides for data transparency and pre-arrest diversion.

The data transparency portion is a especially needed as Florida hosts several departments and agencies, each with its own protocols and procedures. Until this year, each of Florida’s 67 counties classify and maintain criminal information differently, which has created inconsistency and transparency issues across the state. This has made it very difficult to compare the efficacy of the criminal justice system from county to county.

Here is a summary of the 2018 reforms:

– Requires administrators to collect specified data biweekly and report it to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) monthly.

– Requires FDLE to publish this data and make it searchable and accessible to the public.

– Requires additional information to be reported in the annual report for pretrial release programs.

– Authorizes a pilot project in the Sixth Judicial Circuit for the purpose of improving criminal justice data transparency.

– Funds the hiring of nine employees for data collection and to ensure compliance with FBI and the National Incident-based Reporting System.

– Creates pre-arrest diversion program for adults.

– Calls for the creation of a pre-arrest diversion program for juveniles in each judicial circuit.

– Calls for expunction of a non-judicial record of a minor’s arrest who has successfully completed a diversion program.

State of the Criminal Justice System

As of March 2018 the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) houses 96,156 inmates in 145 prison facilities. The growth in Florida’s prison population is not attributable to the state’s overall population growth. From 1970 through 2009, Florida experienced significant growth – a 2.7-fold growth in its population. But during that same period, the prison population grew 11.4-fold.

85.9% of all inmates are in major institutions while the rest are currently residing in annexes, work camps, work release centers, and road prisons. This is a 348.6% increase since 1978, and is costing taxpayers over $3 billion annually.

Although new prison admissions have been on the decline since 2007, over the same time period, the length of prison sentences and the percentage of felony cases that result in incarceration has both increased considerably, resulting in a fairly steady prison population. Of the most frequent crimes that result in prison admission in 2016, the top eight would be considered nonviolent.[1]

Part of the issue with Florida’s rising prison population is the wide application of mandatory minimum sentences. In 2016, 37 percent of offenders in Florida prisons were sentenced under a mandatory minimum or enhancement. Stiff sentencing schemes and high imprisonment rates is not leading to better public safety. Based upon the latest cohort (2013) 25.4% of offenders leaving Florida prisons returns within three years.

 

[1] Burglary of a dwelling/occupied structure/conveyance; Possession of a controlled substance (3rd degree); Sale/manufacturing/delivery of a controlled substance (2nd degree); Traffic in stolen property; felon/delinquent with gun/concealed weapon/ammunition; Burglary of an unoccupied structure/conveyance-or attempted; trafficking in controlled substance (1st degree); Grand theft.

Civil Citations in Florida Contributing to Fewer Juvenile Arrests

Right on Crime | March 20, 2012
Crime is down across the nation, and juvenile arrests fell 50 percent between 1994 and 2009. But two Florida counties are seeing almost double the average decrease due to…

Florida Conservative Groups Announce the Results of a “Smart Justice” Poll

Right on Crime | January 19, 2012
Earlier today, Florida TaxWatch and Associated Industries of Florida released a new poll under their "Smart Justice" initiative. The poll surveyed 800 registered Florida Republicans who self-identified as likely…

A Step Forward for Florida Taxpayers

Right on Crime | January 18, 2012
Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, recently proposed closing seven prisons across the state. The proposed closures are a response to declining crime rates and a growing number of…

Florida Focuses on Juvenile Education Behind Bars

Right on Crime | December 20, 2011
A Senate committee in Florida is undertaking comprehensive juvenile justice reform, and one aspect of that reform is education. Senator Stephen Wise, a Republican from Jacksonville, has introduced legislation…

Arresting School Kids: Tide Turns Against Zero Tolerance

Right on Crime | December 8, 2011
Several news stories across the United States last month focused on the alarming increase in the number of students arrested inside public schools—and for alarmingly minor behavior. Read more

Florida Lawmakers Stepping in the Right Direction on Substance Abuse

Right on Crime | October 5, 2011
According to the St. Petersburg Times, Florida’s Senate Committee on Criminal Justice met last week to take on prison reform. The meeting opened with testimony from Ron Gavin, a…

Jeb Bush Signs the Right On Crime Statement of Principles

Right on Crime | September 2, 2011
Learn more about Right on Crime signatory Jeb Bush. Read more

Florida Lawmakers Focus on Education, Incarceration Alternatives

Right on Crime | September 2, 2011
According to this article from the News Service of Florida, lawmakers and justice officials are collaborating to come up with ways to increase the effectiveness of the juvenile justice…

New Florida Prison Boss Eyes Systemwide Reforms

Right on Crime | August 2, 2011
Florida’s Department of Corrections has a $3 billion budget and holds just over 100,000 inmates. Following his election, Governor Rick Scott hired Edwin Buss, former chief of the Indiana…

A Florida Judge Proposes Cheaper and More Effective Alternatives to Juvenile Detention

Right on Crime | July 7, 2011
Irene Sullivan worked nine years as a juvenile court judge in Florida. During her tenure in St. Petersburg she witnessed heartbreaking scenes of incarcerated youth, but she also saw…

The Trouble with Florida’s Mandatory Minimums

Right on Crime | June 13, 2011
The Orlando Weekly recently reported on Scott Earle, a Florida prisoner who received a minimum 25-year sentence because he possessed more than 28 grams of Percoset. Due to Florida’s…
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