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"Smart justice" movement could address Florida's prison problem

In the past we've written about Florida's lengthy prison sentences and the policies that have caused them. Now the Florida Smart Justice Alliance, a coalition of groups including business interests and advocates for a fair justice system, is making another effort to reform Florida's strict sentencing policies.

The group's mission is to balance two seemingly conflicting interests that are both important to the state. Their goal is to help establish sentencing policies that protect public safety and also make smart, economical use of taxpayer money spent on jails and prisons.

For example, the Smart Justice Alliance has lobbied in favor of diverting drug felons into treatment programs after they serve part of their sentences in prison. Initiatives like this don't just save the state money on prisons, but also help prevent future offenses by providing counseling and opportunities to those who have been in jail.

Governor Rick Scott has vetoed proposed legislation that would end mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders. Despite overwhelming support in the Legislature, Scott said that justice is not served when felons get out of prison before serving their imposed sentence.

The Alliance hopes to get Scott on the smart justice train with a new proposed bill. It would ease the burden on Florida's prisons, with protections to ensure that those convicted serve sufficient time in the governor's eyes. If passed, the new state law would still require that those serving drug sentences do their time but would allow some of the sentence to be served in treatment centers where addiction counseling services and life-skills programs.

People charged with drug offenses in Florida still face harsh consequences, including long prison sentences. If you are accused of a crime, it is best to consult a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights.

Source: The Jacksonville Daily Record, "'Smart justice' effort could be revived in Legislature," Margie Menzel, Oct. 3, 2012

Our firm handles a variety of criminal law matters, including drug cases. For more information please visit our federal and state drug crimes page.

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