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.


  • Florida Could Limit Prison Growth by Turning to its Drug Courts

    Posted in Florida, Priority Issues, ROC Blog, State Initiatives, Substance Abuse: October 26, 2012 by Erin M. Blauvelt

    The first drug court in the United States was formed in Miami-Dade County in 1989. Since then, Florida has increased that number to 106 drug courts, with at least one in every judicial circuit. In 2011, drug courts in Florida saw about 10,000 participants.

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  • Tampa Targets Juvenile First-Timers

    Posted in Florida, Juvenile Justice, Priority Issues, ROC Blog, State Initiatives: August 30, 2012 by Jeanette Moll

    Just six years ago, Hillsborough County and its county seat, Tampa, led the state in the number of juveniles arrested for nonviolent or minor offenses. County commissioners were dismayed by not only the costs this created for their court system, but also…

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  • Sentencing Serious Juvenile Offenders

    Posted in California, Florida, Juvenile Justice, Louisiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Priority Issues, ROC Blog, State Initiatives: June 14, 2012 by Jeanette Moll

    An interesting new report released on Michigan juvenile offenders reveals that most states do not use juvenile life-without-parole (“JLWOP”) sentencing. The few that do use it, however, use it often.

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  • A New Re-entry Program for Florida?

    Posted in Florida, Parole and Re-Entry, Priority Issues, ROC Blog, State Initiatives, Uncategorized: April 3, 2012 by Timothy Cook

    In a bill recently passed by both chambers of the state legislature, Florida may have hit upon an effective way to combat high recidivism rates. The bill, now awaiting…

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  • Civil Citations in Florida Contributing to Fewer Juvenile Arrests

    Posted in Florida, Juvenile Justice, Priority Issues, ROC Blog, State Initiatives: March 20, 2012 by Jeanette Moll

    Crime is down across the nation, and juvenile arrests fell 50 percent between 1994 and 2009. But two Florida counties are seeing almost double the average decrease due to a new civil citation program for first-time offenders. Arrests on school grounds decreased by 16 percent across Florida, but…

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  • Florida Conservative Groups Announce the Results of a “Smart Justice” Poll

    Posted in Florida, Priority Issues, Prisons, ROC Blog, State Initiatives, Uncategorized: January 19, 2012 by Vikrant P. Reddy

    Earlier today, Florida TaxWatch and Associated Industries of Florida released a new poll under their “Smart Justice” initiative. The poll surveyed 800 registered Florida Republicans who self-identified as likely voters. Among the most interesting findings…

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  • A Step Forward for Florida Taxpayers

    Posted in Florida, Priority Issues, Prisons, ROC Blog, State Initiatives: January 18, 2012 by Jeanette Moll

    Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, recently proposed closing seven prisons across the state. The proposed closures are a response to declining crime rates and a growing number of empty prison beds…

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  • Florida Focuses on Juvenile Education Behind Bars

    Posted in Florida, Juvenile Justice, Priority Issues, ROC Blog, State Initiatives: December 20, 2011 by Jeanette Moll

    A Senate committee in Florida is undertaking comprehensive juvenile justice reform, and one aspect of that reform is education. Senator Stephen Wise, a Republican from Jacksonville, has introduced legislation (Senate Bill 834) to ensure that juveniles receive an education while committed.

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  • Arresting School Kids: Tide Turns Against Zero Tolerance

    Posted in Colorado, Florida, Juvenile Justice, Priority Issues, ROC Blog, State Initiatives: December 8, 2011 by Jeanette Moll

    Several news stories across the United States last month focused on the alarming increase in the number of students arrested inside public schools—and for alarmingly minor behavior.

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  • Florida Lawmakers Stepping in the Right Direction on Substance Abuse

    Posted in Florida, Priority Issues, ROC Blog, State Initiatives, Substance Abuse: October 5, 2011 by Henry Joel Simmons

    According to the St. Petersburg Times, Florida’s Senate Committee on Criminal Justice met last week to take on prison reform. The meeting opened with testimony from Ron Gavin, a former drug addict who turned his life around through Reality House, a Daytona-based treatment center.

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