Saturday, February 24, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: A smarter path on prison sentences

Florida's inmate population is growing and is expected to require the reopening of prison facilities closed a year ago. That may be inevitable, but a smarter long-term approach would be for Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature to save money by embracing criminal justice reforms that would reduce mandatory prison sentences for nonviolent crimes.

Florida lawmakers have been hearing for at least the last couple of years about "justice reinvestment" initiatives, but the message has not sunk in. A Texas Republican lawmaker in 2011 shared his state's experience focusing resources on substance abuse and mental health treatment programs, giving judges more flexibility on sentencing and enhancing local probation and parole supervision. Recent incarceration rates in Texas have fallen by more than 10 percent. Georgia officials were in Tallahassee in September explaining how they expect to improve public safety by making laws for drug possession less punitive, among other reforms.

At least 17 states have enacted some form of reinvestment legislation, according to the Urban Institute, including many under Republican control. Earlier this year Florida TaxWatch, the state's business-backed fiscal watchdog, issued a report from its Center for Smart Justice detailing ways Florida could use evidence-based approaches to reduce incarceration rates and recidivism. But it will take the willingness of Scott and legislative leaders to put aside the "tough on crime" rhetoric during an election year and focus on what is best for Florida.

The state houses 101,000 inmates at a systemwide cost of $2.4 billion. Who is the state locking up? More than 60 percent of those admitted to prison in 2011 and 2012 were nonviolent offenders, many with substance abuse problems and about 20 percent with mental health problems.

States have found that diversionary treatment programs, expanded work-release and community-based supervision for nonviolent, lower-level crimes save money and don't jeopardize public safety. And if Florida wants to reduce recidivism, it has to help inmates reintegrate into society once released. Every year 33,000 inmates or more are released from the state's prisons, and more than 80 percent of them receive no counseling or other help adjusting to society after their release.

The Department of Corrections wants $59 million to reopen nine facilities next year, including two prisons that Scott boasted about closing in 2012. Prison admissions are expected to rise 2.7 percent next year, and the prison system is asking for $124 million more overall. But Scott hasn't been open to even modest reforms. Last year, he vetoed a measure supported by conservative legislators to allow about 300 inmates addicted to drugs to move from prison into intensive treatment after serving half of their sentences.

Florida should start following the smart justice example of Texas and Georgia. It saves money, helps those convicted improve their lives and still protects society.

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Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Gov. Rick Scott and key members of the Florida Legislature offered ambitious proposals Friday that would plug some holes in the state’s safety net, strengthen school security and spend up to a half-billion dollars in response to last week’s massacre ...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Enough is enough. The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has renewed conversations about gun control in Washington and Tallahassee. Young people are demanding action, and there are cracks in the National Rifle Association’s solid w...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

The nation’s conversation on guns took an encouraging step this week in three essential places — South Florida, Tallahassee and Washington — as survivors, victims’ families and elected leaders searched painfully and sincerely for common ground after ...
Published: 02/22/18

Editorial: FDLE probe of state fair fiasco falls short

It should go without saying that Florida law frowns upon public officials who take freebies from vendors and whose agency throws business to their family. But that wasn’t enough to move the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to find that the ex-di...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Published: 02/21/18

Editorial: Nursing home rule should be stronger

It shouldn’t take months or another tragedy for Florida — which is hot and full of seniors — to protect its elderly population from heat stroke in the event of an emergency. That’s why Gov. Rick Scott had the right idea last year in calling for nursi...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.’’ A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he won’t raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trump’s claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nation’s 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trump’s rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trump’s rising deficits and misplaced priorities

It’s not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18