A blog by Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer Brian Tannebaum. Commenting on criminal law issues of local and national interest.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Florida Is Number One - In Prison Sentences

Another one of those damn studies:

From the press relase:

TALLAHASSEE — Thanks to its gung-ho approach to lengthening jail time, Florida led the charge in beefing up prison sentences during the past two decades at a taxpayer cost of more than $1 billion a year, according to a new study by the Pew Center on the States.

What else does it say?

In 2009 prisoners served an average of nine more months in custody — 36 percent longer — than offenders released in 1990.

Incarceration rates are the highest in the Southeast.


The Sunshine State led the nation in lengthening prison sentences under both Democratic and Republican governors.

Drug-related sentences climbed 194 percent during the study period, from 0.8 years on average to 2.3 years. Sentences for violent crimes grew 137 percent, from 2.1 years to 5 years. Sentences for property crimes such as burglary, breaking and entering, and vehicle theft grew 181 percent, from 0.9 years to 2.7 years on average.

As a result, the average prison time served grew by 166 percent and cost taxpayers $1.4 billion in 2009. The 36,678 Florida prisoners released in 2009 served an average of 22 months longer and cost taxpayers $38,477 more per prisoner than those released in 1990, the study determined.

More conservative states around us have taken note of the cost:

Indeed, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal last month signed a reform reducing jail time for nonviolent criminals that is expected to save the state $264 million over five years. And Louisiana passed legislation that expands parole eligibility for repeat offenders and nonviolent ones serving life sentences; expands the state's re-entry courts; and allows courts to waive mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders.

We were going to do something - reduce prison time for non-violent drug offenders who entered substance abuse programs.

But Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the legislation, saying Florida's tough sentences had reduced crime rates and that "justice … is not served when a criminal is permitted to be released early from a sentence imposed by the courts."

Governor Scott said this legislation was insensitive to victims.

Victims of non-violent drug offenders. I'd like to talk to some of them, whoever they are.

At least the beaches are nice.

Non-anonymous comments welcome. Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court, and the author of The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Share/Save/Bookmark okdork.com rules Post to Twitter


  1. Anonymous3:00 AM

    The victims of "non-violent" drug dealers are the families and lives destroyed by the chemicals these bastards sell.

  2. Yeah, I've read the script. I won't confuse you with the question of what if they aren't dealers....

  3. Anonymous11:01 AM

    ... and since 1990 the number of lawyers employed directly/indirectly by the criminal justice system and the associated lawyers costs has increased 50 fold. hows kidding who - the lawyer industrial complex is behind all this, as it has been a major boon to its membership and its memberships wallets. save all your " we care about all you criminal defendants crap". lawyers like you would never get behind anything that would cut back on growth of its revenue stream. lawyers are the primary fund raisers for the lawmakers who pass the legislation. you - are the problem.

  4. Interesting theory. But I've heard that before, and while there are plenty of criminal defense lawyers that believe tougher prison sentences are better for their practices because clients will need lawyers more and more, I don't subscribe to that notion - nor do many of the good lawyers that I work with in my association.

    I've been pulled aside many times in the legislature and asked "why are you lobbying so hard against this it will be better financially for you."

    I always respond "because it's wrong."

  5. Numerous studies, and even appellate court decisions, have shown that prison time is not rehabilitative. The whole "spend more money, put more people in jail" philosophy was used during Prohibition and didn't seem to work. Certain drug-related crimes should certainly be prohibited and prosecuted aggressively. Other less severe victimless variants should not. If an individual is stopped with a small quantity of marijuana for personal use and is then arrested, jailed, and adjudicated guilty and receives, say, 15 days in the county jail, all that we've done is spent some money and wasted scarce judicial resources.

  6. Anonymous6:29 PM

    If the "victims" are the family members of those who bought the drugs themselves. Why then do the "victims" not place the blame where it really should be placed? If a family member is going to use drugs they will find someone that is willing to sell the drugs to them not matter what. In fact, we now allow pain clincs in Broward county to push drugs legally in "pain clinics" that operate on a cash basis only. I suggest the "victims" of drug dealers place the blame where it really should be placed. That would be with your family member who is the one using the drugs. After all drug addicts are going to find a way to get their drugs no matter what. I do not think anyone should be selling illegal or legal opiate pain narcotics. They could not see either one if there was no market for the drugs. Place the blame where it should be with the sorry individuals that take drugs at the expense of friends, family and society. It is inappropriate to blame a good criminal defense attorney who is simply doing his job well. Graciously, Kimberly