The Miami Herald reports the Florida Senate Criminal Justice Committee has unanimously passed SB 290, which would end minimum mandatory sentences for nonviolent offenses. The measure represents a major shift from the tough-on-crime bills of the last two decades that filled prisons and created what both liberals and conservatives now believe has been a subclass of lifers in jail and a waste of tax money.
The “prison diversion bill” would save the state $131 million in avoided costs and put 1,001 fewer people in jail, said Sen. Daryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, the bill’s sponsor. Judges would no longer be bound by 118 minimum mandatory sentences in Florida law. It also restores the Florida Sentencing Commission, which existed from 1982 to 1997, but limits its scope to determining the severity ranking that adds points to an offender’s record based on certain offenses. Anyone who commits a violence offense, is not eligible for the court’s leniency.
“We are in an interesting juncture in our society and the Legislature, where Democrats and Republicans in both chambers agree that it’s really time to look at our criminal justice system and start to make some reforms,” said Sen. Randolph Bracy, D-Orlando, chairman of the committee.