March 21, 2019

Florida lawmakers must enact real criminal justice reform or pay the hefty price of a growing inmate population [Palm Beach Post]

This post was last updated on December 8, 2021. As new policies are announced, FPI will update this page.

As Florida’s response to COVID-19 takes front and center, concern grows for low-income families who struggle to take precautions against the spread of the virus. Although Congress has passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to address, at least in part,  the public health crisis and economic fallout from COVID-19, many barriers continue to keep struggling families from accessing the assistance they need during the pandemic. As Florida initiates policies implementing the Act and addressing other barriers to the safety net, FPI will update this form. When available, hyperlinks are provided to agency documents or statements that provide greater detail  about the new policy.

On March 22, 2020, FPI and 44 other organizations sent a letter to Governor DeSantis, leadership in the Legislature and agency heads to urge action on 47 specific policy changes to reduce unnecessary barriers for Florida’s safety net programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. See the letter here.

In a presentation given to the state House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee last month, Florida’s Department of Corrections (DOC) reported that the cost of mental health services for inmates and an aging population are driving up the total cost of health care. These revelations are not news– historically, the department has been wedded to a cycle of financial shortfalls.

Notably, this fiscal year, DOC’s budget deficit led to a decrease of $10.7 million in community corrections (transitional housing and substance abuse and mental health treatment) and $17.8 million in prison educational and re-entry programs. Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposed budget acknowledged the department’s funding woes by recommending a 21 percent increase over the current year budget. But while many have pinned DOC’s budget troubles on an aging inmate population, pressing mental health requirements and court-ordered mandates, these are symptoms of bigger, long-time issues. For too long, the state has been focused on applying band-aids and neglecting to provide any real treatments that would alleviate, or even stop, the financial bleeding of the department. The proper cure is criminal justice reform.


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