Early release options exist for Florida inmates
With state prison and criminal justice reforms in the news, state inmates, their families, supporters, lawyers and other advocates should be aware of early release options and strategies. Florida has nearly 101,000 inmates in 56 major state prisons and numerous annexes and work camps.
A clemency commutation of sentence and parole are alternate paths to the same goal. Both involve compassion, redemption and forgiveness, and are the ultimate grant of a second chance.
The author of this opinion piece published by Gannett’s Tallahassee Democrat is an attorney who specializes in securing early releases. The compassion, redemption and forgiveness for inmates that Reggie Garcia wrote of are in short supply, according to the Florida Department of Corrections Annual Report for fiscal year 2013-2014.
I’ll quote some of those pages below, adding emphasis to the most ridiculous stats.
From page 38:
Elderly Inmates in prison on June 30, 2014
• The majority of elderly inmates in prison on June 30, 2014 were serving time for sex offenses (21.6%), murder/manslaughter (20.8%) or drug offenses (12.9%).
• The 20,753 elderly inmates in prison on June 30, 2014 represented 20.6% of the total inmate population.
• 94.6% of the elderly inmates in prison were male; 5.4% were female.
• 46.2% of the elderly inmates in prison had no prior prison commitments.
• On June 30, 2014, the Department housed three inmates whose age was 92.
On page 39, some insight into the ridiculous cost of incarcerating these 92-year-olds, and everyone else too elderly to commit additional crimes:
The Pew Center on Research has estimated that the cost of managing an elderly prisoner is approximately $70,000 annually. This yields a per diem of $192, compared with the Department’s average healthcare cost of $10.96 per inmate per day for all facilities during Fiscal Year 2013–14.
On page 44, there’s a description of releases that does not support claims that there is significant reason to hope for an early release: releases are declining, and releases are primarily due to expired sentences:
In FY 2013–14, 32,921 offenders were released from Florida’s prisons, a 0.7% decrease from FY 2012–13. Most of the permanent releases (20,765 or 63.1%) were released because their sentences expired and approximately 15.7% (5,174) were released to probation or community control.
Also from page 44, stats indicating that 68.4% (35.4% + 33.0%) were 49-years-old or younger, not 69-years-old or older:
The majority of offenders released in FY 2013–14 were white (17,356 or 52.7%) and male (29,065 or 88.3%). An estimated 35.4% were between the ages of 25–34 (11,644) and 33.0% were between the ages of 35–49 (10,871).
As to the official statement above that the majority of releases were white, one must take into account that Florida Department of Corrections classifies most Hispanics as white, perhaps to conceal a prison to ICE detention pipeline.
Reggie Garcia could be a good guy; he could be making inroads into releasing ordinary people. But I’d guess not, and not just because Garcia made no mention of the stats that could get Tallahassee Democrat readers meaningfully involved in the conversation about inmate releases … Garcia’s website indicates that his clients are mostly business people (whose sentences are too often disproportionately light to begin with), and Garcia has a book to sell, which Gannett’s Tallahassee Democrat mentioned for him, and which I won’t.
It’s my opinion that the stats I’ve emphasized above have much more to do with the conversations we should be having with our lawmakers, especially since a Special Session may be convened soon.
We have to acknowledge that our legislators’ claims of prison reform budgetary constraints have a basis in fact, while challenging that basis-in-fact as being so bizarre as to be unconscionable. On top of the insane cost of incarcerating people too old to be dangerous, there’s the insane cost of retaining the legislative loophole – DROP – that allows corrections Secretary Julie Jones to collect a gigantic monthly pension check while collecting a substantial salary, after receiving an enormous lump sum payout … this while legislators chip away at the wages and benefits being offered to rank and file corrections personnel, stripping all dignity from their corrections careers, giving intelligent, qualified, ethical people every reason to leave.
Please share this post … we need more Floridians to have enough information to have the right conversations with our lawmakers about prisons. Thank you.
[The report I quoted can be found at the bottom of the Florida Department of Corrections home page … under Publications, click on Annual Report and Statistics.]