Why Florida Should Let People Leave Prison Early

A great column today by Tallahassee clemency attorney Reggie Garcia outlines the steps available for current inmates to get early release. The article also outlines what the legislature and governor should o in the future to reform the prison and clemency release system so that it functions both efficiently and morally. Attorney Garcia also has a great book out that details the entire clemency, parole, and work release process.

I’ve written before that Florida’s express purpose of criminal sentencing and imprisonment is punishment, and rehabilitation is a “desired goal.” We are wildly successful at punishing more and more people every year, through either mandatory minimums or overzealous prosecutors overcharging defendants to force a plea. But as far as rehabilitation goes we are failing miserably. In Florida, prisons house more people than colleges. Just this year the news from our prisons has not been good: two correctional officers were arrested for beating an inmate after dragging him to a secluded area; two correctional officers pled guilty in federal court to another inmate beating; two other correctional officers and KKK members were charged with plotting to murder a black inmate; and the Department of Corrections slapped their own internal investigators with internal affairs complaints after they blew the whistle on their employer for stonewalling their investigations into inmate abuse.

That’s not good. But it can be fixed at least in part by eliminating mandatory minimums and reforming our prison system so that it focuses more on rehabilitation instead of using taxpayer money to keep non-violent offenders locked away for increasingly long periods of time. Again, not a panacea, but a step in the right direction. So why should Florida let people leave prison early? Because it’s the smart thing, and because it’s the right thing in many cases where incarceration served its purpose years ago.