New legislation could lead to more inmates filling jails

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By: Mike Vasilinda | Capitol News Service
December 7, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- County jails could soon see more inmates serving time in their facilities.

Currently, anyone sentenced to more than a year goes to state prison, but a committee in the Florida Capitol on Thursday voted to extend the time to two years.

Despite a massive effort to hire more correctional officers, state prisons remain chronically understaffed. State Senators put corrections secretaries on the hot seat Thursday.

Julie Jones, a corrections secretary, stated, “We’re two thousand down from 16 thousand.”

Now, lawmakers are weighing the idea of shifting non-violent short timers to local jails. State Senator Rob Bradley wants to double the time people can spend in county jails, from one year to two.

Bradley urged, “We need to lower the number of prisoners that the Department of Corrections handles.”

Local jails would be paid, but that has been a problem in other states where sheriffs turned incarnation into cash cows.

Scott McCoy of the Southern Poverty Law Center said, “Similar policies have contributed to massive jail expansion.”

When asked if there is more incentive to incarcerate people by building more jails, McCoy replied, “Well, there is, because there is a profit motive.”

One fear being raised is that judges will sentence people to longer terms just to get them out of the local jail and into state prison.

Bradley claimed, “That is an unconstitutional system that is devoid of justice.”

Public Defenders like the concept of keeping people closer to home, but have stopped short of endorsing the idea until more details are worked out.

Nancy Daniels of the Florida Public Defenders Association stated, “If there was a jail with a really good work release program, where people could keep their jobs if they have to do a state DOC sentence, there could be some major advantages.”

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