TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- If House Bill 1/Senate Bill 484 passes the Legislature and becomes law, prison expenditures will increase substantially, and hundreds more people will find themselves locked up in prison, some with lengthy sentences. It will also harm all Floridians with higher taxes and lower standards of living.
Those are some of the findings of Dr. Rick Harper, economist and former director of the University of West Florida Haas Center for Business Research and Economic Development.
Dr. Harper recently released an independent analysis of how Floridians would be economically impacted if the legislation, which is now being considered by the Florida Legislature, becomes law.
Harper estimates that the prison population will increase by 270 to 720 additional prison beds at any given time. Between higher state spending on incarceration and decreased economic self-sufficiency for individuals after incarceration, the state should expect to see $25.1 million to $67.1 million in lower income and increased taxes per year. This would be a reversal of a decade-long trend of reductions in incarceration and associated costs.
“In summary, economic analysis suggested that the expanded and upgraded criminality proposed by HB1 and its related bills will be unlikely to achieve a solution that improves the well-being of Floridians,” Harper wrote. “Instead, the bill, if passed and signed into law, will impose costs to the taxpayer and to offenders that far exceed the possible benefits of the increased sanctions.”
Under this legislation, police could arrest peaceful protesters when violence occurs at a rally even when those individuals have not engaged in any violence. The bill also creates enhanced penalties for people accused of certain conduct at rallies and takes power away from local government by allowing the Governor and Cabinet to overrule a local government's law enforcement budget. The legislation is the top priority of Governor Ron DeSantis, who began pushing for this in 2020 after the Black Lives Matter protests occurred.
Harper finds that HB 1 and its Senate companion, Senate Bill 484, will lead to the arrests and convictions of peaceful protesters based on the conduct of others. Recent amendments proposed by lawmakers do nothing to change this. It will lead to more time out of the workforce for those that are convicted, reducing incomes both while incarcerated and for the years and decades following their incarceration. It would also increase the number of people incarcerated in Florida prisons, costing taxpayers more money to run a prison system that already struggles with overcrowding issues.
This will result in lower standards of living for Floridians, both for those convicted and their families, and also for the broader Florida economy due to lower household incomes, lower consumer spending, and lower revenue to state and local coffers, Harper said.
The analysis was conducted at the request of the Florida Campaign for Criminal Justice Reform. A copy of the analysis can be read here: