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Can Florida fix its "broken" prison system?

The criminal justice system in Florida needs help. One prosecutor notes that the state's prison system is "broken." Plagued by deaths of inmates, crumbling buildings, neglect, and shortages of underpaid staff all work together to create a recipe for a disaster.

The price for this failure is the $2.4 billion budget for the Department of Corrections. What do taxpayers receive for this staggering sum? Apparently, what is likely to be an even larger bill next year, as incarcerations rise.

In many states, there has been a movement to reduce the prison population, to save money. But not Florida. With the DOC on its seventh head in the last eight years and draconian sentencing, often for nonviolent drug crimes, still the norm, it is difficult to see a solution.

The ultimate goal is to reduce the prison population and the incredible expense by adopting appropriate sentences and better criminal justice practices that result in polices that lower incarceration rates and recidivism rates.

Some drug crimes are fostered by substance abuse problems, which traditional incarceration does little to address. Sending persons with addiction and substance abuse to prison has little or no effect on their overcoming their problem.

Diversion programs, that address their core issues with drugs, can be much more effective and can save Florida significant amounts of money.

Long-term incarcerations or repeated incarcerations by inmates who have few life-skills and no assistance once they leave the prison system, lead to a quick return, and cost the state a great deal.

Additionally, older inmates become progressively more expensive as they require more health care services.

The Florida legislature needs to deal with these issues realistically, as they will only become worse over time.

Sun-sentinel.com, "Florida must finally act on real prison reform," Rhonda Swan, January 12, 2015

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