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Florida prison inmate numbers expected to increase after pandemic drop

With courts working through a backlog of felony cases that built up because of the pandemic, the inmate population is projected to increase.
The South Unit of the Central Florida Reception Center in Orlando.
The South Unit of the Central Florida Reception Center in Orlando.
Published Aug. 4

After inmate populations in Florida prisons plummeted because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of prisoners is expected to increase 7.1 percent during this fiscal year, state analysts projected in a report posted online Wednesday.

The number of inmates was 80,495 as of the June 30 end of the 2020-2021 state fiscal year, down from as many as 99,119 at the end of the 2015-2016 year. But with courts working through a backlog of felony cases that built up because of the pandemic, the inmate population is projected to increase to 86,223 at the end of the current 2021-2022 fiscal year and continue gradually increasing to 93,414 inmates at the end of the 2026-2027 year, according to the report from a panel known as the Criminal Justice Estimating Conference.

“This judicial backlog totaled 25,198 cases on the date the (Criminal Justice Estimating) Conference met and is expected to take several years to work its way through to the prison population,” an executive summary of the report said. “It will likely be the end of FY 2023-24 before final resolution.”

The report, however, also said arrests decreased in 2020 amid the pandemic.

“With a judicial backlog exerting upward pressure on prison admissions and fewer arrests exerting downward pressure, it is difficult to quantify the resulting final impact on the population,” the executive summary said.