Tallahassee, FL -- On Thursday the Florida Legislature will adjourn sine die for 2020 without passing any criminal justice reform. The Legislature chose not to act on multiple important reform proposals widely supported by Floridians.
Conducted by Tulchin Research, the polling showed more than four out of five voters in Florida believe the system needs reforms, including 49 percent who think major reforms are needed.Voters also don’t believe that prisons in Florida are doing a good job rehabilitating people and 72 percent favor reforming sentencing laws so incarcerated people can get more time off their sentence for good behavior and participating in rehabilitative programs, such as education and vocational training.
But the Florida Legislature didn't pass, or even consider, multiple bills that would have given people more time off for good behavior and also passed on considering sentencing reforms that would have prohibited long imprisonments for people who purchase or possess small amounts of illegal drugs for personal use and allow judges to use their discretion to depart from mandatory minimum sentences for a person convicted of trafficking under certain circumstances.
The prison population is now almost 100,000 people and costs Florida taxpayers nearly $3 billion a year. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Florida’s overcrowded and understaffed and underfunded prisons also put people in prison at great risk. That will not get better without reform.
The following is a statement from Scott McCoy, senior policy counsel for SPLC Action:
“Criminal justice reform is both needed and widely supported in Florida. It is mystifying that the Florida Legislature chose to ignore common sense policy changes that would have saved the state money and gotten more people out of prison. The Trump Administration and many southern states like Louisiana, Mississippi, and Georgia have embraced criminal justice reform because it is good public policy. Florida must act now or risk remaining an outlier. Failing to enact meaningful criminal justice reform also needlessly puts people in prison at risk from the coronavirus.”
The following is a statement from Kara Gross, legislative director and senior policy counsel for the ACLU of Florida:
“Once again, state lawmakers have failed their constituents by not making criminal justice reform a priority. It’s disturbing that year after year, despite the fact that 82 percent of Floridians believe our criminal justice system needs reform, that our lawmakers fail to act on common sense reforms that numerous other states, including our Southern neighbors, have implemented. We need comprehensive reform – we need to increase rehabilitation in prisons, we need more educational and vocational programming, and we need to stop warehousing individuals who do not need to be in prison. We hope our elected officials listen to the voices of the many Floridians calling upon them to reform our broken system.”
The following is a statement from Denise Rock, executive director of Florida Cares Charity Corp., dedicated to improving the lives of the incarcerated:
“Without minor reforms like Senate Bill 346 we are going to continue to put people in prison for more than a year when they possess one gram or less of cocaine. This is someone with a substance abuse addiction who needs treatment, not prison. The inability to pass the smallest reform such as this makes it blatantly clear that those in power in the House are strong arming other legislators, holding them hostage to their own agenda, and not following the will of the citizens of Florida.”