Spending on Florida’s prison system is the third-largest item in the state budget, with about 100,000 inmates statewide. So fiscal-watchdog groups say reforming the system could save money by cutting recidivism rates and keeping kids out of prison to start with.
Deborrah Brodsky of Florida State University’s Project on Accountable Justice says more than 90% of prisoners will eventually re-enter society. She says that's why more effort should be spent helping inmates change their lives while behind bars, so they can become productive citizens after they're released.
"Prison is there for a reason", Brodsky said. "There are folks who must be put in prison to protect public safety, but the blanket of mass incarceration has been both expensive and ineffective."
Brodsky's group sees one problem as the use in recent years of mandatory prison sentences, which they say can lead offenders to even more crime. The group says one of the keys to reforming the criminal juvenile justice system is allowing judges more discretion to determine when the strictest punishments are warranted.