One Florida Legislator’s Criminal Justice Bill Points to Overarching Crisis in Florida’s Prisons
One Florida legislator—State Sen. Jeff Brandes—has declared Florida’s prison system to be in a “crisis,” even though, in December, Congress passed an overall criminal justice reform bill that reduced mandatory minimum sentencing requirements. Specifically, Brandes advocated for the state changing the threshold for finding that a felony had been committed and providing judges with more discretion in sentencing within Florida, going beyond the changes that federal reform made.
Brandes is not alone: A number of critics, including the Florida Supreme Court, have pointed out that Florida’s jails have essentially turned into mental asylums, where nurses regularly have to dispense medication to inmates suffering from bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia, and do regular suicide checks. There are reportedly 125,000 people with mental illnesses placed in Florida prisons each year, most of them for low-level felonies and misdemeanors. For those that are a danger to themselves or others, they are placed in padded cells without a bed, sink, or toilet.
Jail Is the Only Option for Mental Health Help for a Number of Floridians
According to some experts, approximately 90 percent of the jails’ mentally ill suffer from schizophrenia, and are in and out of the jail, sometimes for decades. More than 44 percent of mentally ill inmates are back in jail within three months. For many, in order to receive the medication they so desperately need, they have no choice but to go back to jail.
South Florida Man with Mental Illness Starves To Death in Prison
Take a look at the case of Vincent Gaines: When he was sentenced to prison in 2013, state officials instead recommended that he placed in a mental institution because he suffered from auditory and visual hallucinations. He was, instead, transferred to the Dade Correctional Institute and eventually the Union Correctional Institution, where he died after suffering from malnourishment and losing 75 pounds in less than two years. His family sued Florida Department of Corrections and former prison health provider Corizon Health, as well as Union’s warden, after he was clearly starved to death inside the prison and buried without first obtaining consent or even informing his family.
If You are Facing Criminal Charges, You Must Speak with an Experienced, Reputable Criminal Defense Attorney
Now that criminal justice reform has passed at the federal level, and more could be on the way at the state level, it is more important than ever that you consult an experienced criminal defense attorney if you have been accused of or charged with a crime. Sentencing and a judge’s discretion appears to be changing every day, which means that you need the very best in legal representation if you are going to protect yourself. Contact our Florida criminal defense attorneys at the Baez Law Firm today to find out more.