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Takeaways from Tallahassee – Let My People Go

Back to the Future

A recent study from a conservative criminal justice reform group is advocating for Florida to restore its parole system back to what it had before 1983.

On Tuesday, Right on Crime released a study that identifies Florida as one of 16 states without a full-fledged parole system. Furthermore, it calls for the Sunshine State to gradually reintroduce parole or to create a class of non-violent crimes that could let rehabilitated inmates out sooner.

Right on Crime is affiliated with an Austin-based conservative think tank, the Texas Public Policy Foundation. The organization supports conservative solutions for reducing crime, restoring victims, reforming offenders and lowering taxpayer costs.

Chelsea Murphy and Right on Crime say it’s about time Florida updates its parole system.

“Risk and cost analysis of re-instating parole deserves consideration, but the benefits of parole are far too great to ignore,” writes Right on Crime Florida Director Chelsea Murphy, the paper’s author. “A moderate reintroduction of parole is long overdue, and modifying Florida’s truth in sentencing thresholds, even gradually, will provide incentive for productive behavior and supervision.”

As part of a national movement in the 1970s to scrap parole in favor of pre-World War II release policies, Florida began reviewing its parole system. After the Legislature ordered a review in 1978, the Commission on Offender Review issued sentencing guidelines that effectively abolished parole in 1983.

Florida does not parole offenders unless they committed a crime prior to 1983 or parole was court appointed for serious offenses. However, inmates whose crimes were committed prior to Oct. 1, 1983, are still eligible for parole consideration.

Florida currently has a gaintime structure that requires offenders of both violent and non-violent crimes to serve at least 85% of their sentences.

Not only does parole cost the state less to monitor parolees than it does to house inmates — $11.69 with electronic monitoring or $7.18 with versus $76.83 in prison, per a Florida Department of Corrections 2020-21 fiscal year report — parole gives incentives to rehabilitate and reduces recidivism. It could help with overcrowding.

To handle the risk factors of parole, Florida could exclude sexual and child-related crimes from eligibility, like Tennessee.

As an alternative, Right on Crime suggests creating a class of non-violent crimes that only require 60% time served.

Lawmakers should also add two more panelists to the Florida Commission on Offender Review Florida, a victim and a formerly incarcerated individual both appointed by the Governor, the report argues.

“Since Florida currently only has three board members, two former assistant state attorneys, and one former law enforcement officer, expanding the current makeup will provide a unique perspective on the challenges both victims and offenders face,” Murphy writes.

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Coming up, the usual assortment of news, intel, and observations from the week that was in Florida’s capital city by Peter Schorsch, Drew Wilson, Renzo Downey, Christine Jordan Sexton and the staff of Florida Politics.

But first …

Take 5

The “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Christina Pushaw registers as foreign agent — Christina Pushaw, DeSantis’ press secretary, registered as a foreign agent who worked for two years on behalf of Mikheil Saakashvili, former President of the Republic of Georgia and a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Less than a year after her stint volunteering for Saakashvili, for which she disclosed $25,000 in housing compensation, she was hired as DeSantis’ press secretary in May 2021. Her attorney says she only learned recently that she had to disclose the work to the federal government. DeSantis brushed off the scrutiny, adding that she does a great job calling out legacy media’s “lies and phony narratives.” “I would be much more concerned with my press secretary if the Washington Post was writing puff pieces about her, then I would think something was wrong.”

DeSantis vetoes Lake O water bill — DeSantis on Wednesday vetoed legislation to address water quality in Lake Okeechobee, a priority of Senate President Wilton Simpson. DeSantis, who issued a rare policy statement during the recent Legislative Session criticizing the initial version of the bill (SB 2508), said he vetoed the proposal after complaints from environmental groups. Critics claimed the bill would have prioritized the sugar industry to the detriment of the environment and other water users. Those opponents made a strong showing during legislative committee meetings this year. “I’ve heard you. We have vetoed that today,” DeSantis said.

SCOFLA hears gun preemption enforcement arguments — The Florida Supreme Court sought answers Thursday to whether the state has the authority to punish local lawmakers for passing ordinances that violate the state’s gun law preemption. Justices heard oral arguments in a case challenging a 2011 state law that provides financial penalties to local officials for enacting or enforcing gun legislation that is more restrictive than the state’s. “This is a legislative fire hose to put out a birthday candle,” attorney Edward Guedes told Justices. Chief Justice Charles Canady and Justice John Couriel were most vocal in their apparent resistance to Guedes’ argument that local lawmakers have legislative immunity. Daniel Bell, representing the state, asserted that if the Legislature prescribes legislative powers to local governments, it also has the ability to restrict legislative immunity.

DeSantis signs school safety package — DeSantis on Tuesday signed an update to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act to bolster school crisis intervention and include charter schools in some safety requirements (HB 1421). The new law aims to improve earlier legislation passed in response to the 2018 MSD High School shooting in Parkland. Testimony during this year’s Senate and House hearings on the update revealed none of the state’s 67 school districts were entirely in compliance with the law that aimed to improve school safety. “Every child needs a safe and secure learning environment,” DeSantis said in a statement. When asked about gun safety measures recently, the Governor pointed to that proposal and school safety funding.

Dems’ Special Session call falls flat — As the clock struck 3 p.m. on Friday, Democratic lawmakers’ hopes for a Special Session on gun violence ran out after the deadline to find the votes came and went without support from a single Republican. The call, spearheaded by Rep. Joe Geller, was limited to regulating high-capacity rifle magazines, mandating universal background checks and expanding red flag laws. For their slate of proposals, DeSantis criticized Democrats as “leftists” who were going after the Second Amendment. Meanwhile, video surfaced Tuesday of House Speaker-designate Paul Renner issuing his support for permitless carry, a measure DeSantis promises to pass before he leaves office.

FloridaPolitics, excerpt posted on  SouthFloridaReporter.comJune 11, 2022

Republished with permission 

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