Facts and Policy Reforms for Florida
Like most states, Florida’s prison population has exploded in recent decades, growing nearly 400 percent between 1980 and 2016.
In 2017, there were nearly 98,000 people imprisoned in Florida, making the state home to the third largest prison population in the country and the eleventh highest per capita imprisonment rate in the country.
It costs Florida approximately $20,000 per year to lock someone up in a state prison. That results in over $2 billion dollars in annual costs to taxpayers – tax dollars that could be better spent on education, infrastructure and boosting our economy.
Drug and property offenses are among the leading drivers of the state’s incarceration crisis. In 2017, 54 percent of people admitted to prison for new offenses were convicted of drug or property crimes, with 5 percent admitted for drug possession.
Unsurprisingly, Florida’s mass incarceration crisis has had an enormous impact on people of color, especially Black people. While Black people constituted only 16 percent of the state population in 2016, they made up nearly 50 percent of the Florida prison population. Ending mass incarceration is a critical – although insufficient – step towards addressing racial disparities in Florida’s and the nation’s criminal justice system.
Women are also being sent to prison in Florida at alarming rates. Between 1980 and 2016, the state’s female imprisonment rate per capita increased 306 percent.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Florida can dramatically reduce its prison population by implementing just a few sensible reforms:
- Reducing pretrial detention and eliminating money-based detention.
- Reclassifying possession of drugs and minor property offenses as misdemeanors rather than felonies.
- Reforming mandatory minimum and steep sentencing enhancement laws.
- Promoting alternatives to incarceration, such as substance abuse treatment, mental health care, and other programs.
- Giving judges the ability to impose a punishment other than incarceration rather than being mandated by the legislature to send people to prison for certain crimes.
- Improving release policies and practices to reduce time served.
If Florida followed these and other reforms outlined in this Smart Justice 50-State Blueprint, by 2025, 46,631 fewer people would be incarcerated in the state’s prison system, saving the state over $1.6 billion that could be invested in schools, services, and other resources that would strengthen communities. (Total prison population reduction may be +/- 1 due to rounding.)
For more information, along with detailed breakdowns of Florida’s prison population and the reforms needed to reduce it, click here.