While lawmakers consider measures to privatize state prisons, others are looking for alternative ways to reduce expenses. One study suggests, shorter sentences could equal more savings.
The "Time Served: The High Cost, Low Return of Longer Prison Terms" report says the state could have saved up to $1.4 billion if non-violent criminals had served shorter sentences. Since 1995, inmates have been bound by a law, requiring all convicted felons to complete 85% of their sentence.
In the last few years, Assistant Public Defender Kim Dowgul has seen stronger sentences come down. "It's changed especially in the last 3 to 4 years and the sentences seem increasingly longer to me."
Contrary to popular belief, Dowgul has noticed that more time doesn't necessarily decrease repeat offenses. "My clients, the first time they went to prison, the ones that went for a shorter amount of time, feared going back. They were actually the ones that turned in the right direction. Those that have been in the system too long, learn to adapt to it."
Criminal defense attorney Waylon Graham is also of the same opinion. He says the longer sentences are a waste of tax payer money. "Today, the attitude is much harsher and it's almost like the heck with you. Well the problem is that every year that you house that inmate, it's costing the taxpayers about $40,000."
In April, Governor Scott vetoed a bi-partisan bill that would have permitted a small group of drug-addicted inmates to move from prisons to intensive treatment programs after serving half their time--- a plan Representative Jimmy Patronis was in favor of.
"It was trying to take a different approach to serving drug sentences. It created alternative paths for treatment rehabilitation as opposed to incarcerate them. Which means we're going to pay their health, we're going to pay their food, their clothing, supervision and over sight."
As the budget battle continues, Patronis says the legislature will continue to look for ways to save the state money while keeping our streets safe.
To see the full study by the Pew Center on the States visit: The High Cost, Low Return of Longer Prison Terms