Incarceration of individuals convicted of non-violent crimes comes at a
great cost to society. In the case of a person found guilty of a
drug-related offense who would be best served by treatment for addiction, the criminal justice
system often just perpetuates a problem. But the Florida legislature is
giving strong consideration to getting rid of mandatory minimum sentences
for defendants convicted of
sale of controlled substances.
Senate Bill 1334 also seeks to encourage the Department of Corrections
to place non-violent offenders into paid community service employment
and develop reentry programs for inmates. The bill recently received unanimous
approval from the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.
While the measure is opposed by Florida law enforcement, it has bipartisan
support as well as support from conservative business groups. "We
are all looking at ways that we can save money while enhancing public
safety and adding justice back to the idea of a criminal justice system,"
Robert Weissert of Florida TaxWatch told
The Miami Herald.
Indeed, the movement for saner application of criminal consequences reflects
a widespread reassessment from the right of national criminal sentencing
policies due to fiscal constraints. The group Right On Crime, which is
supported by former U.S. Attorney General Ed Meese, former Speaker of
the House Newt Gingrich and former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
head Asa Hutchinson, bases its support of reform on a series of principles,
- Criminal law is intended to punish conduct that threatens public safety
- Our criminal justice system should reform amenable offenders
- Courts, prosecutors and corrections must be held accountable for their
results in protecting society and conserving tax revenues
Governor Rick Scott has also stated his opposition to sentencing reform,
but the bill's sponsor remains optimistic of its chances. "If
you have a bill that goes through the Legislature and has overwhelming
support, [Gov. Scott] has to make a decision as to who's right, one
man or 160 people?" Fort Lauderdale Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff told the
The potential for reducing the corrections budget is considerable: In Florida's
146 state prisons, ten percent of all inmates are doing time for drug
convictions such as cultivation of marijuana, illegal use of prescription
drugs or sale or transportation of illegal substances. Florida drug crimes
lawyers can help clients understand all aspects of their defense, from
exclusion of illegally obtained evidence to negotiating for reduced drug charges.