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Flagler Jail

Top 5 Suggestions to Reduce the Prison Population in Florida

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Overcrowding in Florida’s Prisons: That cell is built for four felons. It had five. (Source: Flagler Live)

Top 5 Suggestions to Reduce the Prison Population in Florida

Florida’s prison population is among the largest in the United States, and disproportionately large, given the state’s population. Furthermore, estimates show that the population will continue to grow much faster than other similar states in the foreseeable future, according to Florida Tax Watch. As the state’s prison population continues to rise, it will be accompanied by increasing costs — especially health care costs — that are already overwhelming the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) and creating crippling costs for taxpayers.

Below I propose guidelines that would help to reduce the prison count, as well as provide relief for taxpayers of Florida who share the financial burden of caring for inmates. These suggestions are based upon my more than 20 years as a Florida criminal defense attorney.

1.  Eliminate the prison requirement for some non-violent offenses. If a crime is committed that is a victimless crime — for example Driving on a Suspended License or Possession of prescription medications — a Judge should be allowed to sentence the offender to something other than prison, regardless of the score sheet.

2.  The influence of drugs or alcohol should be reinstated as a basis for the court to depart downward (or depart from the mandatory minimum sentence).  This was the law in Florida up until the year 2000! There are alternatives to prison to help rehabilitate many such offenders.

3.  Anyone should be able to obtain a driver’s license in Florida by merely showing a local address and proof of insurance prepaid for a full year.  Yes, that includes non-citizens.

4.  Once and for all, eliminate the death penalty.  Life without the possibility of release is more than adequate and far less expensive than execution.  Such a position would be appropriate, given the increasing number in  number of exonerations in Florida, which has been rising all too frequently arising in our courts. Since 1973, there have been 25 exonerations in the state of Florida (as of March 23, 2015).

5.  Reinstate the role of statutory aggravators in sentencing. If a Judge wishes to depart downward from a prison sentence, he needs a statutory mitigator.  A judge may sentence someone to the maximum sentence without any reason — nor is one required.  This policy should also change, as was once required by our state’s sentencing guidelines.

As always, remember to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney if you have questions about criminal charges or your potential sentence.

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