Florida should spend money to make prisons less needed | Letters
Here’s what readers are saying in Saturday’s letters to the editor.
Florida State Prison is located in Raiford as seen in February. (Augustus Hoff/Fresh Take Florida)
Florida State Prison is located in Raiford as seen in February. (Augustus Hoff/Fresh Take Florida) [ AUGUSTUS_HOFF ]
Published Nov. 18

Save money and people

Fla. must hike prison funding, firm says | Nov. 16

A $6 billion to $12 billion master plan to update Florida’s prison system “did not examine whether changing certain criminal justice policies could help reduce the inmate population.” Data has shown that diversion programs make our communities safer and save taxpayer dollars. Why was this not considered? HOPE, Hillsborough Organization for Progress and Equality, has been pushing Hillsborough decision-makers on criminal justice reform for many years. HOPE got decision-makers to greatly expand the youth civil citation program to include more first-time nonviolent misdemeanors. Taxpayers save $4,600 per civil citation and a child is twice as likely to not reoffend. Now 800 fewer children aren’t branded for life with an arrest record each year and get a second chance.

We are now pushing our decision-makers to expand the adult civil citation program to include nondangerous traffic offenses. In 2019, nearly half of the 30,000 misdemeanor cases were for traffic offenses, with around 40% of those related to driver’s licenses, which are often connected to one’s inability to pay a fine or fee. Expanding the adult civil citation program to include some of these offenses would save taxpayer money (anywhere from $2,500 to $13,000 per case); reduce recidivism (if given a civil citation, a person’s likelihood to reoffend is only 2-4% — if arrested, it is 40-45%), increase public safety, free up officer time for serious offenses and protect people’s livelihoods by not saddling them with lifelong arrest or criminal records. Why would we not want this for our community?

The Rev. Bernice Powell Jackson, Pastor Chris Kravitz, the Rev. Michael Price, Laurie Jones Oluku and Sherre Henley, Tampa

The writers are members of the HOPE Criminal Justice Steering Committee.

Prevent the problem

Fla. must hike prison funding, firm says | Nov. 16

The state hired KPMG to study Florida prisons, which resulted in recommendations to spend between $6 billion and $12 billion to upgrade prison facilities and staff. Where is the research into how to prevent people from entering criminal activity in the first place? It costs far less to keep people out of prison rather than keep them in prison, both in terms of financial and social costs. Our state executive and legislative branches are shortsighted and contribute to the prison population problem. As a former resident of a corrections facility many decades ago in another state, I can tell you that we should invest in people, not prisons.

Randy Campbell, Tampa

First, beer, then what?

How researchers, farmers and brewers want to safeguard beer against climate change | Nov. 11

The threats posed by climate change are increasingly evident, even in life’s simple pleasures such as enjoying a beer. This prompts a crucial consideration of how the escalating climate crisis will impact people’s lives. As Hillsborough County persists in its reliance on fossil fuels for energy, the repercussions are felt directly in the rising electricity bills of local residents. This burden weighs heavily on the wallets of individuals, including myself, a college student living in an off-campus apartment and personally financing my education. The budget constraints make it unfeasible to accommodate increased utility costs.

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The imperative shift to clean and renewable energies not only safeguards our environment but also alleviates the financial strain on the community. It is disheartening that the state has yet to take decisive action, underscoring the need for local initiatives. I implore Hillsborough Commission chairperson Ken Hagan and the whole commission to initiate the development of an affordable energy plan promptly. This endeavor is crucial for the economic well-being of Hillsborough County residents and the overall prosperity of our community.

Isabella Moeller, Tampa

Move — and often

Schools may curb recess | Nov. 15

We have a national security issue. More than 70% of American youth between the ages of 17-24 cannot qualify for military service, and for many the reason is obesity. So, to the “recess moms” who are fighting for the kids to have 20 minutes of recess I say, Brava! We need to encourage our kids to move and move often. We also need to encourage our lawmakers to stop fixing things that aren’t broken and meaningfully address something like — oh, I don’t know — homeowners insurance.

Terrence S. Callahan, Crystal Beach

Work and play

Schools may curb recess | Nov. 15

Finland, which has been rated among the two or three best public school systems in the world, provides a 15-minute recess for each 45 minutes of classroom work. An official of the Finish system was asked how to improve other systems. He responded, “More recess.” Why are our government representatives meddling with school schedules to the detriment of our children’s education?

Bruce LeBaron, St. Petersburg