The criminal justice system functions most basically on two levels. First, the system seeks to protect the public by deterring crime, prosecuting those crimes that occur and preventing former criminals from reoffending. Second, the system seeks to respect the rights of those who are accused, those who are convicted and those who have been released back into society. Too often, these twin pillars of the criminal justice system are seen as operating only before crime occurs and during the prosecutorial and sentencing processes.
The criminal justice system does not stop impacting the lives of both offenders and the public when offenders are released from correctional facilities. Indeed, some of the most important work that the system does both to protect the public and to honor the rights of offenders only occurs once convicted persons are released from correctional detention.
For example, when an individual convicted of drug crimes is released back into society, he or she is much less likely to reoffend and is more likely to become a productive member of society if he or she has been given tools designed to aid in this kind of success. Florida’s criminal justice system too often fails to provide offenders with the tools they need to successfully transition away from a life of crime.
While some states ensure that their criminal offenders have access to work training, substance abuse counseling, housing assistance and other tools designed to prevent offenders from reoffending and landing back in jail, Florida largely fails to provide these tools. When tax payers and legislators question why such tools are necessary, one needs to look no farther than the rate of reoffenders returning to detention in Florida versus states with better transition programming.
Source: Tampa Bay Times, “Florida’s prisoners get little help once released,” Steve Bousquet, June 24, 2013