Will Florida get softer on crime under new Criminal Justice Reform Laws?

The United States incarcerates more people than other countries throughout the world and Florida has one of the toughest criminal justice systems in the nation. Our state also has one of the strictest sentencing codes in addition to having more minimum mandatory offenses than other states. The result has been a 2.5 million dollar Department of Corrections budget that keeps about 100,000 inmates incarcerated. Considering that Florida is expected to experience a significant increase to its general population in 2021, lawmakers have implemented data collection requirements in order to make changes to Florida criminal justice based on information rather than emotion.

Rehabilitation vs. Incarceration

Since 2016, Florida has seen no reduction in the amount of inmates despite reducing the amount of defendants that were sent to prison. This is due the fact that mandatory minimum offenses and sentence enhancements have resulted in inmates being forced to spend significantly longer periods of incarceration than other states. All of those convicted losses have been required under law to serve at least 85% of their sentence. Longer prison sentences translate into greater punishment and less rehabilitation for a prison population in which 95% will eventually be released.

Analyzing Florida Criminal Justice Trends

Under the new law, Florida prosecutors, public defenders and various entities within the criminal justice system will have to collect information about the treatment of defendants including race, plea negotiations and case dispositions. It is the intention that this data will be used to make better-informed decisions with regard to changing Florida criminal law and potentially focusing on rehabilitation rather than incarceration. It is expected that the result will be lower crime rates at less cost to taxpayers.

Specifics pertaining to adults about the Justice Reform Law

Education and reform: counties may elect to contract with the district’s school board to provide educational services to inmates. State funding will be provided for workforce programs for the education of inmates who have no more than 24 months left on completion of their sentence.

Criminal justice data collection: every local and state agency within Florida must uniformly collect criminal justice data from state attorneys and public defenders. This information must be published on a single accessible database. This database must be freely accessible by the public. All data must be anonymous with respect to the defendant’s name. Florida counties must also encourage local communities, public and private educational institutions to provide pre-arrest immersion programs.