In a bill recently passed by both chambers of the state legislature, Florida may have hit upon an effective way to combat high recidivism rates. The bill, now awaiting the governor’s signature, creates a new system of re-entry which will divert non-violent drug offenders who have served at least half of their sentence into community-based substance abuse treatment and education programs.

The bill would make 337 inmates eligible this year alone and at a cost of $19,469 per prisoner per year in Florida, it could lead the state to save up to $6,561,053. These savings could be just the beginning, however, because properly-structured treatment programs have proved to reduce recidivism rates dramatically. A Maryland study, for example, found that low-risk substance abuse offenders that were directed into an evidence-based probation and treatment program were 22 percent less likely to re-offend than comparable offenders who were sent to prison.

Florida taxpayers should be delighted to see that their legislators and governor are looking so carefully at the state’s recidivism problem.