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.

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