Saturday, June 13, 2009

Tackle prison overcrowding from the other end

The Florida Legislature passed a ''just in case'' bill that its author, Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa, calls a ''passive safety net,'' not a mandate. But the philosophy behind SB 1722, which becomes law July 1, is based on regressive thinking.
It would allow the corrections department to ship inmates to other states in case prison overcrowding forces early releases here.

Fund programs

This is a patchwork solution that misses the point. Florida should be fighting crime at the front end -- not shipping prisoners to be warehoused out of state.

To reduce prison beds the state has to adequately fund programs to reduce school drop-out rates and increase job-training and life-skills classes. It means counseling and access to needed services for troubled families with teens who have strayed but not fallen off the deep end yet.

It also means drug rehabilitation programs, well-resourced drug courts and mental-health counseling for teenagers. In the long run these preventive measures would save the state millions of dollars it now spends housing prisoners who could be contributing members of society.

The irony is that, until budget deficits hit this year, Florida's been on a prison-building spree even as it has cut back on programs to reduce recidivism. The 2010 state budget is the first in a long while with no money set aside for new prison construction.

Enter the private-prison lobbyists who have long urged lawmakers to imitate the 15 states that export prisoners to public and private lockups. Even though Florida's Corrections Secretary Walt McNeil isn't a proponent of sending prisoners out of state, the private-prison lobbyists prevailed in the Legislature.

Besides its regressive thinking, this bill is an example of bad public policy. As Mr. McNeil points out, one method of reducing recidivism is encouraging inmates to build ties to the community they will return to once they're released. It's detrimental to inmates' morale -- and no incentive to go straight -- to be incarcerated hundreds of miles from their families, making visitations rare.

Cutting corners

There are other concerns. The quality in private prisons is uneven, to say the least. Some private operators have been exposed for cutting corners by understaffing and chintzing on inmates' medical care. It would be impossible for Florida to monitor treatment of its inmates in a prison in, say, Tennessee.

Currently, Florida's prison population is stable at 101,000 and even a little below previous projections. The state's total bed capacity is around 106,000, so Florida probably won't be exporting prisoners any time soon. That gives state leaders time to craft a smarter, more cost-effective strategy to prevent prison overcrowding.

It's called crime prevention.

An editorial from the Miami Herald published June 13, 2009


Ahma Daeus said...


Even if one does not ask or pretends not to see the rope and the flashing red flag draped around the philosophical question standing solemnly at attention in the middle of the room, it remains apparent that the mere presence of a private “for profit” driven prison business in our country undermines the U.S Constitution and subsequently the credibility of the American criminal justice system. In fact, until all private prisons in America have been abolished and outlawed, “the promise” of fairness and justice at every level of this country’s judicial system will remain unattainable. We must restore the principles and the vacant promise of our judicial system. Our government cannot continue to "job-out" its obligation and neglect its duty to the individuals confined in the correctional and rehabilitation facilities throughout this nation, nor can it ignore the will of the people that it was designed to serve and protect. There is urgent need for the good people of this country to emerge from the shadows of indifference, apathy, cynicism, fear, and those other dark places that we migrate to when we are overwhelmed by frustration and the loss of hope.

My hope is that you will support the National Public Service Council To Abolish Private Prisons (NPSCTAPP) with a show of solidarity by signing "The Single Voice Petition"

Please visit our website for further information:

–Ahma Daeus
"Practicing Humanity Without A License"...

coach alex said...

My brother sold a small bag of cocaine, but was within a 1,ooo feet of a school (on a Saturday night) and received a 3 year prison sentence. He was also a user and while locked up in Floirda's DOC has received no drug counseling and is slowly being institutionalized inside. What i feel is another important issue is the bearing on the inmates families... He has a 19 year old daughter that (while in college) is working two jobs so that she can send him some money each month via J-Pay. there is a fee attached. She paid to get a phone line - she has to pay into his account so that they can talk each week (he is housed 9 hours away)- another fee and they only allow you to set up a land line phone in November and May (?). When any of us want to visit him - then that is a weekend trip plus gas, tolls and $40 spending money once inside. Thsi is the only time he gets to eat fruit, chips, drink juice or milk.
This is all so taxing on a young teenager. I do my best by driving her up every other month. The stress imprisonment on the families is awful! Unless we scrimp and save and send him something eahc month then he has no soups or honey-buns to barter with for protection or favors. I have no problem with the staff at the facility but i have a big problem with how the system works..
It is just a money-making scheme that sucks people in (usually when they are young kids through DJJ), makes money off them while serving their time for the crime and then casts them back int society knowing full well the reasons for recidivism - the same reasons teh system has created.
Who do families turn to for assistance? If anyone knows - please post or answer to

Alex Moreno