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 former drug addict who turned his life around through Reality House, a Daytona-based treatment center. Now, Ron is employed, engaged, sober, and free. “It’s refreshing to stand behind a podium and not be sentenced,” he told committee members, who saw him as an example of criminal justice done right.
Ten percent of Florida inmates are incarcerated for drug use, but not all of them receive treatment, and that frequently just lands them back in prison. Florida legislators are now recognizing the failure of this policy, and they are re-examining their policies across the board.
The attendees at the Senate committee meeting also discussed root causes of the problem in Florida. Republican Mike Bennett blames some of the problems on the legislature for destroying judicial sentencing discretion: “They don’t have that discretion anymore, and often times we find ourselves with a bunch of people incarcerated that we might not want there,” the Senator said. When asked about appearing ‘soft on crime’ Bennett said, “[i]t’s not soft on crime; it’s hard on the budget.”