February 26, 2024

Florida Budget Proposals in Brief: Criminal Justice and Corrections

This post is part of the “Florida Budget Proposals in Brief” blog series, where FPI highlights some of the key components of the House and Senate budget proposals — where they align, how they differ, and what it means for Floridians, communities, and the state economy. Overall, the Senate and House budget proposals for FY 2024-25 are quite similar. Unlike previous years, the joint budget conference committees will not have many significant differences to negotiate. Still, there are some notable variances, and the funding decisions have both fiscal and policy implications for the state.


The Florida Senate passed its fiscal year (FY) 2024-25 budget proposal (SB 2500), which totals $115.9 billion and represents a $578 million (or a 0.50 percent) reduction from the current budget.[1] The Florida House’s FY 2024-25 budget proposal (HB 5001) totals $115.5 billion and represents a $969 million (or a 0.83 percent) reduction compared to the current budget.

The next step in the budget process will be for a Joint Budget Commission to meet and reconcile any differences to propose a General Appropriations Act (GAA) for FY 2024-25. Both chambers will then vote on the proposed GAA, and once it is passed, it will be sent to the governor, who can make line item vetoes and sign the bill into law. The Legislature can then override vetoes if two-thirds of the members, in each chamber, vote to do so. The final budget will be enacted as of July 1, 2024.

Criminal Justice and Corrections

Programs that promote rehabilitation such as general education and vocational training are uniquely important for those who are in prison. Not only do these services assist in rehabilitation — they also help enhance public safety. Studies have found that over 90 percent of incarcerated people will return to their communities. As a result, ensuring that released individuals have the life skills and educational background that would help them to successfully reenter their communities and strive socially and economically is crucial.

Both chambers’ budget proposals provide an overall increase for the Department of Corrections (DOC) over current-year funding levels. The Senate, though, recommends $223 million more than the House in total allocations. Despite the difference between the two budgets, the recommendations are commendable and would go a long way in expanding educational opportunities for incarcerated people. The Senate includes $93 million for basic education whereas the House proposes $89 million.

By recommending such an increase for educational programs, both the House and the Senate are taking much-needed strides in helping DOC to combat high illiteracy rates and idleness among the prison population. In 2022, DOC reported that nearly 73 percent of the state’s incarcerated population younger than 22 years of age did not have a high school diploma or a GED. Further, the department has also maintained that the lack of educational activities has led many incarcerated individuals to become idle, which has contributed to an increase in violence and ongoing illegal activities. These additional dollars will help reduce idleness, which will ultimately have a positive impact on the lives of the incarcerated.

Infrastructure and Maintenance

Many of Florida’s prison facilities were built decades ago; they are outdated and lack a central cooling system. Out of the 623 prison housing units, roughly 150 of them have air conditioning, which means that most of Florida’s incarcerated population do not have access to air conditioning when temperatures rise. The facilities that are air conditioned are reserved for special populations, such as older adults and pregnant women. In recent years, DOC has had to face the consequences of the aging infrastructure of its facilities, from flooding that has led to prison closures to lawsuits that have accused the department of not complying with Americans with Disabilities Act standards. The lack of air conditioning has contributed to unbearable living conditions for those who are incarcerated, especially during the blazing heat of Florida’s summers; as such, the Florida Legislature must find a solution for DOC’s dilapidated building infrastructure.

This legislative session, lawmakers filed bills (HB 181/SB 296) that would require each state correctional institution to provide air cooling systems. Unfortunately, the bills were not scheduled for any committee hearings in either chamber. Both budget proposals include increased funding for maintenance and repairs, with the Senate recommending $458 million — $222 million more than the House, which proposes $236 million. Notably, none of the dollars in both budgets are earmarked for air conditioning projects. The significant difference between the Senate and the House proposed funding levels is due to SB 2510,  a bill that would require $100 million to be put into the Correctional Facilities Capital Improvement Trust Fund until FY 2054-55 to help address the department’s critical needs for repair. 

While these increases are notable, they still fail to address the magnitude of the issue. Florida’s prisons are in dire need of repairs, and failure to properly invest in air conditioning accommodations not only threatens the living conditions of incarcerated people; it also jeopardizes the working conditions of staff. DOC has had one of the highest turnover rates and unfilled positions. Florida's prison population has been on the rise after years of decline. It is estimated that Florida’s prison population of 88,240 people will grow to 94,059 by FY 2028-29. The Legislature will need to make substantial investments to ensure that DOC’s facilities can safely house people. 


[1] For analysis of top-line budget figures, FPI uses the current General Appropriations Act (FY 2023-24), including vetoes, for sections 1-7, which totals $116.5 billion. However, this does not include back-of-the-bill sections.  For the current GAA, including vetoes, plus back-of-the-bill appropriations, supplemental appropriations, and transfer totals, please see the Florida Legislature’s “Fiscal Analysis in Brief: 2023 Legislative Session: Chart 8.”

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