Pubdate: Sun, 13 Mar 2011
Source: Palm Beach Post, The (FL)
Copyright: 2011 The Palm Beach Post
Author: Greg Newburn


State Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, and Rep. Ari Porth,
D-Coral Springs, should be applauded for introducing Senate Bill 1334
and House Bill 917 to eliminate mandatory minimum prison sentences for
drug trafficking (Friday article).

Inflexible sentencing laws have been inefficient, costly and unfair.
Department of Corrections data from 2008 show that nearly 6,000 people
were serving mandatory minimum drug sentences in Florida prisons, at a
cost of nearly $120 million annually. Of those, 544 were
prescription-drug offenders - many of them addicts - whose mandatory
minimum sentences can reach 25 years, even for a first-time,
nonviolent offender. Incarcerating these prisoners will cost
Floridians nearly $1 billion.

Public safety is rightfully government's highest priority, but there
are better ways to protect the public than mindless and costly mass
incarceration of drug addicts. The bipartisan support for mandatory
minimum reform demonstrates that legislators on both of side of the
aisle recognize the need for a new direction in sentencing policy.

Already, 17 states facing budget crises similar to Florida's have
enacted significant sentencing reforms, saving millions of dollars and
reducing pressure on overcrowded prisons while protecting public
safety. Florida lawmakers should follow their lead and pass common
sense sentencing reform. Taxpayers deserve nothing less.



Editor's note: Greg Newburn, a lawyer, is Florida project director of
Families Against Mandatory Minimums, whose membership includes
"prisoners and their families, attorneys, judges, criminal justice
experts and concerned citizens."  
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