Florida Inmate Population Increase

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Florida’s prison population is growing at a time when the Pew Center says 27 other states are seeing a reduction in inmates. The increase comes as state lawmakers are facing a three billion dollar budget challenge.

101-thousand people are locked up in Florida state prisons. The number is growing, but state cash to feed, clothe, and house the inmates isn’t. Governor Charlie Crist isn’t worried.

“If the inmate population does increase we will find a place to lock them up.”

The Governor’s budget proposal holds criminal justice spending harmless. The Senate cuts 250 million and privatizes nearly 2-thousand correctional officers overseeing inmates on work release. David Murrell, Exec. Director of The Florida PBA says the move will cost taxpayers more in the long run.

“It’s been a fiasco where ever it’s been tried in the state, a lot of those people ended up in prison.”

But spending cuts aren’t the only options state lawmakers have to balance the correction’s budget. Kurt Wenner of Florida TaxWatch says the state could save an estimated 450 million dollars over the next couple of years by beefing up drug prevention programs, stop locking up petty drug offenders, and reduce sentences for juvenile offenders still in jail as adults.

“We need to look at ways, without negatively impacting public safety, to look at ways that are cheaper and also have a better track record in terms of rehabilitation.”

But dozens of lawmakers running for higher office will likely vote down any changes that could make them look soft on criminals.

More than a quarter of the 30,000 people released from Florida prisons each year are back behind bars within three years. TaxWatch says keeping people from reoffending would be a huge money saver.

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