Escalating the Use of Imprisonment: The Case Study of Florida (FOCUS)

During the past five years, Florida has embarked on a policy of incarcerating massive numbers of drug offenders. This policy has accelerated an increase in usage of early release, not only for drug offenders, but also for inmates convicted of violent crimes and those with violent criminal histories. Florida today has the highest rate of prison admissions and the shortest length of stay of any prison system in the country. In addition, its already high crime rate has not been reduced but has increased slightly. A more cost-effective alternative, which the state could utilize, would be placing prison admissions in less expensive and more effective community based programs. Such a policy would result in initiating necessary levels of supervisions and services that many drug offenders and other inmates require, reduce costs to taxpayers, and increase public safety.