November 27, 2018
Senator Marco Rubio
284 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
RE: Florida support for the First Step Act
Dear Senator Rubio,
The nation is at a pivotal moment in history, where we can take a first step in the right direction towards meaningful criminal justice reform. One in three American adults has some type of criminal record and more than 2 million Americans are in state and federal prisons. More than 95% of them—nearly 700,000 each year—will one day leave prison and rejoin society. Unfortunately, statistics show that 77% of inmates are rearrested within five years. American prisons are failing to adequately prepare individuals for release into our communities. The First Step Act is intended to improve rehabilitation for prisoners and modest sentencing changes for limited, nonviolent drug- related crimes.
Americans believe in redemption and second chances. It is apparent, that now more than ever, Floridians believe in second chances, by the passage of Amendment 4, which would restore felon voting rights and Amendment 11, which would allow lawmakers to make new criminal laws retroactive. Sadly, once someone has paid their debt, continued hardships are extensive and far-reaching, limiting opportunities for employment, housing, financial stability, and education. Faced with these challenges, the cycle of crime repeats itself, putting communities at risk.
Prison reform can safely reduce crime, improve employment, and lower recidivism, resulting in improvements in public safety and decreased spending. Faith-based and community organizations are making significant strides across the country, and states like Texas, Georgia, South Carolina, and Louisiana, saw huge success where recent reforms were implemented saving taxpayers billions of dollars.
Our nation benefits from a criminal justice system that increases public safety, strengthens families and communities, supports victims, and safeguards taxpayers. Prison reform inspires a culture of respect for every individual and removes barriers to transformation so that people can go from prison to paycheck.
The First Step Act would prepare inmates — the overwhelming majority of whom will be released — for re-entry into society so they can become productive citizens. It would prioritize prison beds for violent and repeat criminals, and provide more appropriate punishments for 2
lower-level offenders. While opposition so clearly likes to point out that federal judges can give a low-level non-violent offender a lesser sentence, they fail to disclose that is also allows judges to add additional years, even decades, on top of the mandatory minimum sentence.
The First Step Act has gained vast support from the help of President Trump, Jared Kushner, a group of bi-partisan lawmakers, the National Fraternal Order of Police, and even, garnering 360 House Votes (including that of Congressman Matt Gaetz). We the undersigned conservative leaders in Florida support this smart reform that strengthens families, restores victims, and makes our communities safer. Should you have any questions please feel free to contact Chelsea Murphy of Right on Crime at [email protected].
Florida State House Representative Byron Donalds
Florida State Senator Rob Bradley (Appropriations Chairman)
Florida State Senator Jeff Brandes (Criminal Justice Appropriations Chairman)
Florida State Senator Doug Broxon
Florida State Senator Dennis Baxley
Dean Cannon, Former Florida State House Speaker
Steve Crisafulli, Former Florida State House Speaker
Will Weatherford, Former Florida State House Speaker
Mike Haridopolis, Former Florida State Senate President
Andy Gardiner, Former Florida State Senate President
Richard E. Doran, Former Florida State Attorney General
Adam Hasner, Former Florida State Majority Leader
Rene Garcia, Former Florida State Senator 3
Matt Caldwell, Former Florida State House Representative
Wansley Walters, Former Florida State Secretary the Department of Juvenile Justice
Allison DeFoor, Former Monroe County Sheriff and Vice Chair of the Florida Republican Party
Simone Marstiller, Former Florida State District Court of Appeals Judge
Donna Arduin, Arduin, Laffer & Moore
J. Robert McClure, III, President of the James Madison Institute
Dominic Calabro, President of Florida TaxWatch