Currently, Florida inmates incarcerated for nonviolent crimes can only get their sentences reduced for good behavior by 15%. Two new bills in the state legislature, one in the Senate and one in the House, would change the law so that these inmates could see sentence reductions of up to 35%. The House bill’s sponsor believes that the state stands to save $850 million if her bill becomes law.
However, with only three weeks left in the legislative session, both bills are in danger of dying in committee. Professional organizations for law enforcement personnel statewide may have hurried their demise by recently releasing data about inmates whom the change would affect.
The data indicate that 85% of Florida inmates serving time for drug crimes had a previous history of committing burglaries and/or violent felonies. On average, each has 18 prior convictions. The implication is that if such inmates have their sentences reduced for good behavior and go back into the community, crime could increase as a result.
However, the sponsor of the House bill believes that the money that the laws would save the state could go toward breaking the cycle. Specifically, the state could reinvest it into inmate rehabilitation programs. The time in prison could be, in the state representative’s estimation, put to more productive use learning valuable trade skills that could help inmates successfully rejoin society and thus decrease recidivism.
At this point, it is difficult to say whether either argument will hold sway over lawmakers. In the interim, however, those facing criminal charges may wish to speak with a defense attorney.