Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Florida's costly crime problem

Florida's pay-now, pay-later approach to criminal justice has set a new national low that illuminates the difference between looking tough and protecting the public. A new study shows that Florida releases a higher rate of inmates without any supervision or support than any other state in the nation. This is a recipe for more crime, more victims, more arrests and more untold millions spent on prisons with their revolving doors. The state needs a smarter approach that works both for public safety and the bottom line.

The Pew Charitable Trusts reported that a large and increasing number of inmates are "maxing out" — serving their sentences and leaving prison without any conditions or assistance that could keep them from returning to crime. Between 1990 and 2012, Pew found, the number of prisoners across the United States who maxed out grew by 119 percent, with one in five returning to their communities without any monitoring or other support to reintegrate into society.

Florida had the worst max-out rate in the nation, with two-thirds of those released leaving prison without supervision. That proportion has doubled over the two decades, and Florida's tough-talk culture is to blame. The state abolished parole in 1983, and in 1995 it imposed tough mandatory sentencing measures that have required virtually all inmates to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences.

There is no sense in refusing to accept the reality that ex-cons re-enter society and need help to be successful. Supervision has long been seen as a responsible step in helping offenders find a job, housing and a stable living environment. These are programs that can help break the cycle of crime. Pew found that inmates released under supervision are less likely to commit new crimes, and that states could save tens of millions of dollars in security and prison costs.

Florida needs to expand these programs. Almost half of its inmates are imprisoned on drug and property crimes — hardly a lost population. Yet more than one in four inmates who are released later are convicted of new crimes and return to prison. Monitoring these convicts and steering them toward productive lives could cut crime and save big money. Nearly one-fourth of offenders on community supervision last year had their freedom yanked because of a technical violation. This is preventable. And the cost of supervising an offender, about $5 a day, is 10 times less than housing him in a Florida prison.

Florida and other states need to focus on the critical period before an inmate is released, to give offenders time to acclimate back to society, and to allow states to tailor these programs to meet an offender's risk level and needs. Warehousing only creates a permanent criminal class, and it drains resources that could be put to more productive use. The good news about Florida's poor ranking is that the state has the luxury of looking anywhere else for a better model.

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Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

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Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital has begun the important work of rebuilding trust with its patients and the community following revelations of medical errors and other problems at its Heart Institute. CEO Dr. Jonathan Ellen candidly acknowledges...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18
Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
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Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

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Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice they’ve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/16/18
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Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institution’s lack of candor to the community. Regulators have determined the hospital broke Florida law by ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18