Last week, we discussed the news that several Florida legislators are determined to strengthen sex crimes sentencing laws during the next legislative session. In that post, we explored why subjecting low-level offenders to even stricter sentencing laws would neither be in the best interests of Florida’s taxpayers nor the public generally as longer imprisonment terms for low-level offenders are unlikely to reduce recidivism rates.
Additional evidence that applying shorter sentences for low-level offenders does not increase recidivism rates was released a few weeks ago by the United States Sentencing Commission. The commission issued a report indicating that offenders convicted of federal drug crimes who had their sentences shortened under the Fair Sentencing Act did not re-offend at rates any higher than those who had served far lengthier sentences for the same crimes.
According to the report, over 7,300 offenders have had their incarceration terms shortened by an average of 29 months since the law went into effect. In addition to the fact that shorter prison terms have yielded no increase in recidivism rates, the government has saved roughly half-a-billion dollars annually by releasing these prisoners earlier than the time period that their sentences originally mandated.
It is time for Florida to embrace the approach that the federal government has already begun to take. Longer incarceration terms harm taxpayers and do not benefit society in terms of recidivism rates. Reducing incarceration minimums for low-level offenders in Florida is a goal worthy of pursuit, as is a measure designed to reduce overinflated sentences for existing prisoners.
Source: The New York Times, “Sentencing Reform Starts to Pay Off,” Editorial Board, Aug. 1, 2013