Florida recently missed an opportunity to seriously overhaul its criminal justice system. As reported in the Sun Sentinel, the state of Florida spends more than twice as much to lock its population up behind bars than it does on sending them to higher education. Florida’s Department of Corrections budget, which is set at $2.4 billion, is a huge portion of the state’s overall budget, leaving little for many other public projects and departments. Unfortunately, recent bills were not passed by the Florida legislature to cut back on incarceration costs–measures that would have increased public safety by reserving space in prison for violent criminals while keeping non-violent criminals, such as drug offenders, out of prison.
Measures Would Have Cut Overall Costs and Increased Funding for Beneficial Social Works
Advocates of criminal justice reform also called for more job training and mental health treatment facilities, which would help reduce the poverty, depression, and desperation that many people go though who have had run-ins with the law; programs that would enable police officers to issue citations in place of making arrests in certain cases; and taking elderly inmates, who require expensive medication and are no longer deemed a threat to the public, out of prison. Other Republican-led states have been successful in passing similar measures to reduce their prison populations and save billions for their taxpayers, such as nearby Alabama and Mississippi. Florida does not seems to be on the cutting edge when it comes to criminal justice reform, which means that non-violent offenders are often the ones most hurt by the current system.
Findings from the Crime and Justice Institute Reported by the Sun Sentinel
- Florida spends nine percent of its budget on corrections, while the national average is under seven percent;
- Florida’s incarceration rate is 23 percent higher than the national average;
- Despite higher incarceration rates and corrections spending, Florida’s crime rate remains 15 percent higher than the national average.
Sentencing of Nonviolent Criminals
According to the Florida Department of Corrections, the following is a list of the top 10 offenses of offenders currently locked up in Florida’s prisons. Emboldened crimes are nonviolent:
- Robbery with weapon – 8.9 percent
- Burglary of a dwelling – 8.4 percent
- Capital (first degree) murder – 7.5 percent
- Manufacture, sale or purchase of drugs – 6.2 percent
- Drug trafficking – 5.5 percent
- Second degree murder – 5.4 percent
- Lewd and lascivious behavior – 5.3 percent
- Weapons possession – 3.7 percent
- Aggravated battery – 3.3 percent
- Capital sexual battery – 3.3 percent
As you can see, half of the 10 most common crimes for which individuals are put in prison are nonviolent offenses. It costs $19,77 per year to house an inmate in Florida, while it costs just $5.05 a day to implement supervision or probation, called “Community Supervision.” For now, there is simply too much money being made by private companies profiting off of mass incarceration for laws to change and for fair punishments to be awarded to nonviolent offenders. Because of this, it is more important now than ever to work with an experienced attorney who can limit the time you will serve, or clear your name altogether.
Call the Skier Law Firm Today
If you have been charged with a nonviolent crime, or a violent crime, contact the Skier Law Firm today at (561) 220-3355 for immediate assistance. Our West Palm Beach attorneys are eager to help you today.