Florida Policy Institute encourages state lawmakers to consider the experience of other states that are part of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative
LAKE MARY, FL – Florida legislators should establish a broad-based criminal justice reform task force as a first step toward instituting major reforms in the criminal justice system, according to the Florida Policy Institute (FPI). In its latest report, Florida Could Improve Public Safety and Free Up Valuable Resources Through Major Criminal Justice Reform, FPI examines the experience of other states that are part of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI).
“Implementing evidence-based criminal justice reform has support on both sides of the aisle. The state could reinvest those dollars saved through the reforms in public services, while reducing the recidivism rate and enhancing public safety,” said Joseph F. Pennisi, executive director of FPI.
Lawmakers should also favorably consider bipartisan measures that could come before them in the 2018 legislative session that would raise the felony property theft threshold from $300 to $1,500 and permit judges to depart from mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. These sentencing law reforms have been implemented by other JRI states.
Florida’s prison system is the third largest in the nation, with nearly 100,000 inmates, at a cost pegged at more than $2.4 billion in Fiscal Year 2016. This constitutes approximately half of the total $4.9 billion appropriated for the state’s criminal and civil justice system.
The JRI was formally launched in 2010 by the Bureau of Justice Assistance and The Pew Charitable Trusts. More than 30 states have engaged in the JRI reform process.
States that have already engaged with the JRI did so because of massive budget shortfalls, which were forcing lawmakers to make difficult policy choices in other areas of the budget, along with high and increasing prison populations, high prison costs and little or no demonstrable improvements in public safety outcomes commensurate with the level of investment in the system.
In examining Urban Institute analyses on the experience of JRI states, FPI found that:
“I urge Florida lawmakers to establish the criminal justice task force in the 2018 legislative session and pave the way for reforms that will benefit Florida communities,” added Pennisi.
The Florida Policy Institute is an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting widespread prosperity through timely, thoughtful and objective analysis of state policy issues affecting economic opportunity.