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Proposed Prison Reform Bill Could Save Florida $850 Million

Crime victims, former inmates and parents of current ones are pushing for passage of meaningful prison reform.

The proposed legislation, known as House Bill 189, would increase good behavior credit for first-time, non-violent offenders, from 15 to 35 percent.

“I feel the presence of something going to happen,” said Kay Cardona, mother of a Florida inmate who attended a rally on the steps of Florida’s Old Capitol Wednesday morning. “It’s 2020. This thing has been a long time coming.”

The reduced time behind bars could result in a savings of around $850 million for Florida Corrections, according to the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Rep. Dianne Hart of Tampa.

According to Hart, “I say let’s put that $850 million back into our facilities for vocational training, educational opportunities. I firmly believe we can no longer give people $50 and a bus ticket and send them home without any hope or opportunity.”

Republican Senator Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg adds, “The Florida system isn’t working as well as it could. We simply warehouse people in the Florida Corrections System. We aren’t correcting their behavior, though we call it the Department of Corrections.”

Wednesday’s rally attracted nearly 350 people.

Crime justice bills have been receiving bipartisan support in the Senate, but have been failing to then move in the House. In addition, law enforcement officials say that even non-violent offender releases could be dangerous.