Florida’s Dangerous Prisons Still Costing Taxpayers Too Much
We’ve previously discussed some of the corruption and abuse issues that plague Florida’s justice system. The Florida Department of Corrections is the largest agency in the state, with a budget of $2.3 billion each year. Still, in spite of all this spending, Florida prisons have experienced a number of high-profile abuses, deaths, and disturbances: incidents linked to sexual abuse at women’s prisons, drug-related deaths at unprecedented levels, federal civil rights investigations, widespread violence on the juvenile facilities, and more. In fact, earlier this month (September), one prisoner was allegedly strangled by his cellmate and then had his eyeballs and ears removed. Prison officials reportedly never knew about it until the perpetrator allegedly walked into the cafeteria wearing the cellmate’s body parts.
Why is this happening? One possibility is that, because the state locks up so many prisoners, they cannot possibly invest in enough quality control measures and guards to keep the prisons running smoothly. In addition, just this last summer, the Florida Department of Corrections—finding itself with a $79 million shortfall—decided to gut substance abuse and mental health treatment programs. This arguably does not make sense.
Some States Running Towards Progress, While Florida Acts Absurdly
Meanwhile, other states are already taking steps towards criminal justice reform; specifically, Alaska, Minnesota, and Texas have already started passing laws that will reduce prison population numbers, do away with excessive sentencing guidelines, reduce recidivism, and/or reclassify certain drug offenses.
We Need To Change the Basics
As highlighted in a recent Tampa Bay Times editorial, Florida prisons are in strong need of some significant criminal justice reforms, especially as we spent more and more money on housing prisoners, arguably without any corresponding, visible positive benefits to society.
How can we accomplish this? Here are a few suggestions:
- Lighten prescribed sentencing, which fails to take into account any extenuating circumstances, nuances, or much-needed flexibility and discretion from judges;
- Reflect that we understand the difference between those who have used drugs and those who engage in massive drug distribution in both charging and sentencing;
- Raise the felony threshold for thefts;
- Work to take advantage of electronic monitoring and work release programs; and, ultimately;
- Understand that we have more of our state citizens in prisons than 40 of the other states, and it isn’t doing us any good.
Ultimately, we need to recognize that throwing people in prison and ignoring them is both and unproductive and costly.
Contact Our Florida Civil Rights & Criminal Defense Attorneys Today To Find Out More
It is unacceptable that justice is denied to millions each year sentenced to serve time in Florida prisons, and it is criminal that many of them have to deal with significantly dangerous conditions once they arrive there.
If your civil rights have been violated in a Florida corrections facility, contact one of our civil rights and criminal defense attorneys at the Baez Law Firm today to find out how we can help.