State Initiatives: Florida

Click here for a PDF version of the Florida Right On Crime Statement of Principles.

The Florida Department of Corrections houses 102,000 inmates in its 63 state prisons (including seven private prisons) costing taxpayers nearly $2.4 billion. The growth in the prison population is not attributable to Florida’s overall population growth. From 1970 through 2009, Florida experienced significant growth – a 2.7-fold growth in its population. But during that same period, the prison population grew 11.4-fold.

Currently, one in 31 adults is under some form of correctional control. The state’s incarceration rate is 26 percent higher than the national average, and it has the third-largest correctional system in the nation after California (174,000) and Texas (155,000). If Florida were to incarcerate people at the same rate as in FY1972-73 (126.8 per 100,000), the state’s prison population would be 23,848, at a cost of $446 million instead of the nearly $2.4 billion Florida spent in FY2010-11.

Additionally, Florida's recidivism rate is about 33%, which means one out of every three inmates released from a Florida prison returns to prison in Florida within three years. (This does not include the number of inmates who also return to county jails, federal prisons, or prisons in other states.) This 33% recidivism rate within 3 years of release increases to 65% after five years.

It costs an average of $53.34 per day or $19,469 per year to house an inmate in a Florida prison, and Floridians pour nearly $3 billion a year into the state's overall corrections system. However, with a crippling $3.75 billion budget gap, there is a renewed effort to address the inefficiencies in government—including the corrections system.

“With our state facing a $3.75 billion budget shortfall this year and the cost of the corrections budget increasing, now is the time for reform,” said Dominic M. Calabro, President and CEO, Florida TaxWatch. “Now is the time for smart justice reforms that reduce crime while saving money.”

On Tuesday, March 22, 2011 the Right on Crime campaign launched in Florida with support from former state Attorney General Richard Doran, Dominic Calabro of Florida TaxWatch, Bob McClure of the James Madison Institute, former Monroe County Sheriff Allsion DeFoor, and Barney Bishop, the President and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida. In September of 2011, former Florida governor Jeb Bush signed onto the ROC statement of principles and has continued to be a driving force for the Florida initiative.


  • Elderly Prison Populations Compromise Safety

    Posted in Criminal Justice News, Florida, Prisons: October 9, 2014 by Right on Crime

    Officials in Florida are concerned about their aging prison populations. Older prisoners require more medical care and increase costs. And with prison having to dedicate their scare resources to these populations, safety is compromised in other areas. To address the problem, it has been suggested that they consider early release for elderly non-violent offenders. Florida’s […]

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  • Enhancing Public Safety & Right-Sizing Florida’s Criminal Justice System

    Posted in Florida, ROC Blog, State Initiatives, Uncategorized: July 15, 2014 by Right on Crime

    Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Right on Crime asking the right questions: Which criminal laws are overlapping, obsolete, overbroad or vague, or lacking a mens rea provision? What percent of offenders in community corrections and prison are paying the restitution they owe? Which treatment, education, and work programs most reduce re-offending for each type of offender? […]

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  • Vikrant Reddy on Florida criminal justice policy

    Posted in Audio, Florida, ROC Blog, State Initiatives: July 9, 2014 by Right on Crime

    ROC Senior Policy Analyst Vikrant Reddy discusses Florida’s 85% mandatory minimum sentence requirement with Florida’s WFLA 970. “Time behind bars may be part of what contributes to public safety, but it’s not all of it. There are other factors involved; it’s very complicated.”

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  • “Conservative Group Continues Push for Criminal Justice Reform”

    Posted in Florida, ROC Blog, State Initiatives, Texas: April 23, 2014 by Right on Crime

    “Right on Crime aims at reform on both the federal and state levels. The underlying idea is to use prisons for people who would harm society, not for non-violent offenders causing no injury to body or property.” Click here to read more.

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  • Bill Reforming Florida’s Juvenile Justice System Has Some Calling For More Reform

    Posted in Florida, Juvenile Justice, ROC Blog, State Initiatives: February 25, 2014 by Right on Crime

    Bob McClure, ROC signatory and president of the James Madison Institute, “applauds the effort” of Florida’s bill to reform juvenile justice, but believes that more can be done. “We feel it important to codify the principles and practices borne out by research in Florida’s juvenile justice program that saves money and ensures positive outcomes for […]

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  • James Madison Institute “A Tale of Two States”

    Posted in Audio and Video, Events, Florida, Georgia, Juvenile Justice, ROC Blog, State Initiatives: October 2, 2013 by Right on Crime

    On September 24, The James Madison Institute hosted a forum in partnership with The Florida State University’s Project on Accountable Justice and St. Petersburg College Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions to discuss what Florida can learn from Georgia’s successful juvenile justice reforms. The public forum was titled “A Tale of Two Cities: What Can Florida Learn From […]

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  • Reason Magazine mentions our work

    Posted in Adult Probation, Florida, Overcriminalization, Prisons, ROC Blog, Texas: March 26, 2013 by Right on Crime

    This morning on Fox News Sunday Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) gave his most extensive answer yet on how he feels about U.S. drug laws. The short version: He doesn’t endorse legalizing drugs, but he also doesn’t want to lock up nonviolent offenders for “extended periods of time.” All that said, there’s another way to look at […]

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  • The Conservative Case Against More Prisons

    Posted in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, Prisons, ROC Blog, Vermont: March 18, 2013 by Right on Crime

    Our policy experts Vikrant Reddy and Marc Levin wrote an excellent piece recently for The American Conservative magazine. It’s entitled, “The Conservative Case Against More Prisons” and appeared in the latest issue of the magazine. Here is an excerpt: There are other ways to hold offenders—particularly nonviolent ones—accountable. These alternatives when properly implemented can lead […]

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  • Florida Seeks to Increase Juvenile Diversions

    Posted in Florida, Juvenile Justice, Priority Issues, ROC Blog, State Initiatives: February 4, 2013 by Jeanette Moll

    Across Florida, municipalities are saving millions and keeping youth who do not need formal processing out of the system through the use of civil citations. Civil citations are eligible only for youth who have committed a misdemeanor or local ordinance violation, and involve supervision, treatment, and…

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  • Event in St. Pete – Does Incarceration Reduce Crime?

    Posted in Events, Florida, Prisons, ROC Blog: February 1, 2013 by Right on Crime

    If you live in the Tampa/St. Pete area, please join us for this upcoming event! Prison Forum #1 – Does Incarceration Reduce Crime? Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013 6-8 PM St. Petersburg College Seminole Campus Digitorium (UP 160) 9200 113th Street N, Seminole, FL Researchers have struggled with the relationship between crime and a host of […]

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