A brief but compelling editorial from The Gainesville Sun responded to the AP article and pinpointed Florida’s main problem: “This state locks too many people up for too long.” Here’s the Sun‘s editorial response, in its entirety:
Editorial: “The Wrong Reform”
This state locks too many people up for too long.
A succession of “get tough on crime” mandatory minimum sentencing laws are primarily responsible for a state incarceration rate that is 26 percent higher than the national average.
An Associated Press report this weekend cited the case of a man serving a mandatory five-year prison sentence for possession of a handful of Lortab tablets, “prescription-only pills containing a small amount of a controlled substance but mostly made up of the same ingredient found in Tylenol and similar over-the-counter painkillers.”
“Florida’s prison system, which now has about 102,000 inmates, grew more than 11-fold from 1970 through 2009 while the state’s population increased just under three times,” the AP reported. “Florida also has done away with parole and requires inmates to serve a minimum of 85 percent of their sentences, which have kept inmates behind bars longer.”
Thus, Florida’s corrections spending continues to escalate even as crime rates decline.
Citing data from “Right on Crime,” a prison reform group that advocates doing away with mandatory minimum sentences and relying more on drug courts and substance abuse treatment for offenders, the AP report continued, “If Florida imprisoned people at the same rate it did in 1972-73 the state would have only 23,848 inmates and be spending $446 million a year on prisons instead of $2.4 billion.”
Real corrections reform would involve locking fewer people up, not creating new profit opportunities for the private sector at taxpayers’ expense.