Florida, like many states, spends a lot of money maintaining its prison system. But it can spend a little less if the state simply reduces prison sentences for non-violent offenders, according to officials with Florida TaxWatch.
The idea, they say, is to reduce the prison population by downgrading offenses and implementing alternatives to incarceration for non-violent, low-level offenders.
“Florida’s criminal justice system can do more to improve public safety beyond locking up all offenders,” said Dominic M. Calabro, president and chief executive of Florida TaxWatch, in a release. “Nearly half of Florida’s new prison admissions are non-violent offenders charged with third-degree felonies, the lowest offense on the felony severity chart. Florida could be safer by rehabilitating these offenders without having them spend time in costly prisons, or crime colleges, where they are detained with dangerous, violent criminals.”
A new report from the group says some third-degree felonies can be reduced to misdemeanors. They would still carry “significant punishment” for offenders, but it would reduce the burden on taxpayers at the same time.
“The punishment should fit the crime and the cost,” said Dan McCarthy, director of the TaxWatch Center for Smart Justice, in a release. “Florida could save millions of dollars and improve public safety by reducing our non-violent prison population through alternative adjudication.”
Florida’s prison population has increased by more than 400 percent in the last 35 years, though the state population has only doubled during that same time, according to Florida TaxWatch. The state has 1.5 million felons, but Florida’s crime rate is at its lowest point in more than 40 years.
To learn more about Florida TaxWatch’s breakdown on third-degree felonies, click here.
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