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  1. Letters to the Editor

Monday's letters: Many elderly prisoners could be released

Published Mar. 6, 2015

Florida prison population

Many elderly could be released

Florida is incarcerating more people than ever, even while the state's crime rate is at a 40-year low. But some of the state's inmates look like they belong in a nursing home, not in a prison. Taxpayers have spent billions of dollars to lock up nonviolent offenders, many of whom are aging in the prison system and becoming more costly by the year.

As a bloated Department of Corrections searches for solutions to get its skyrocketing costs under control, one money-saving option is clear. Florida should establish a strictly defined program to release nonviolent elderly offenders who are not deemed dangerous to Florida communities.

Research from the independent, nonpartisan watchdog group Florida TaxWatch estimates that elderly prisoners cost nearly two to three times more than the average inmate. Florida's elderly inmates burn through more than half of the DOC's burgeoning health care budget.

Releasing this low-risk prison population to spend their final years at home, and not in a state-supported prison serving as a de facto nursing home, would save taxpayers up to $40 million a year. These potential savings inspired me to file HB 785 to create Florida's first Supervised Conditional Elderly Release Program.

Approximately 750 prisoners currently behind bars in Florida could be eligible for release under this program. Only inmates who are currently incarcerated for nonviolent offenses and who have no prior Department of Corrections violations would be eligible to go before the Florida Commission on Offender Review. The commission would determine if the inmate would be a successful candidate for the program.

State Rep. Katie Edwards, Plantation

Dangerous intersection

Death trap on Bayshore

Last week I went to a Go Hillsborough meeting in South Tampa. I had one item I wanted to discuss: the deadly intersection at Bayshore Boulevard and Rome Avenue. Numerous elected officials were there, and privately they all agreed that the intersection is extremely dangerous for pedestrians, cyclists and cars. It needs a traffic signal and a proper crosswalk.

Twelve hours later, I was one of the first cars to come upon a horrific accident at that very intersection. A damaged motorcycle was lying on its side, and the driver, a young man in fatigues, lay in the road, practically under the car that hit him. Witnesses were running to help, phones in hand to call 911.

Something has to be done. Tampa is ranked second in the nation for pedestrian and cyclist fatalities. We are often called one of the least walkable cities in the nation. And it's no wonder. We take pride in our beautiful Bayshore walking path, but provide no access to it. There are no traffic signals or crosswalks for 2 miles between Howard and downtown. And the situation at Rome is particularly awful, for pedestrians and drivers alike.

Hannah Strom, Tampa

'Bathroom bill' passes hurdle | March 5

Bill is simply harassment

I feel outraged that state Rep. Frank Artiles and other Republican legislators feel they have nothing better to do with our taxpayer-funded time than to harass transgendered people. Their proposed legislation forcing a transgendered or transitioning person to use a restroom designated for the opposite gender from which he or she identifies reeks of ignorance and hatred.

These legislators are simply piling a huge indignity, not to mention actual danger, upon a group of people that already face more than enough challenges in creating the life for themselves that is their own "normal." Artiles should be ashamed for proposing this law and for championing a culture of intolerance that most Floridians are ready to shed.

Daniel Hodge, Gulfport

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