Florida legislators should not let an unenlightened governor block one of the most promising prison reforms in years. The next time lawmakers come to Tallahassee, they should override Gov. Rick Scott's veto of a plan that finally recognizes that just locking away drug addicts does not make fiscal or law enforcement sense.
The Republican-controlled Legislature voted 152-4 for an experiment that would move 337 nonviolent offenders to drug rehabilitation after serving half their sentences in hopes of reducing recidivism. Scott's veto of the bill, HB 177, smacks of political posturing, suggesting legislators were being soft on crime and erroneously claiming the measure would allow inmates to be released after serving 50 percent of their sentence instead of the state's mandatory 85 percent.
The fact is those inmates still would have been in custody. But instead of sitting in a state prison, they would receive help with an addiction that will most likely play a large role in whether they return to crime after they are released. Only nonviolent inmates who demonstrate good behavior and have a reasonable chance at success would have participated.
Years in the crafting, this bipartisan legislation had broad support across the criminal justice community. Now is not the time for retreat. The Legislature should override the governor's veto.