I’d like to take a moment to discuss “gain time” legislation. The concept is pretty simple: incarcerated people who take steps toward rehabilitation or perform good deeds can earn time off of their sentences. This is both fair to them and incentivizes participation in educational and occupational programs, which promote workforce readiness and ensure returning citizens are able to put food on their tables upon reentry. All of these actions would promote public safety in Florida.
There are people who will hear the prison bars slam behind them before they go to bed tonight who should have an opportunity for redemption. In fact, within the first year, this legislation could grant freedom to between 11,000 and 24,000 people who have earned it, thereby reducing racial disparity in the prison system by almost 35%.
But right now, there is an overly stringent limit to how much time a person in prison can earn off of their sentence––15%. No matter what positive steps an incarcerated person takes and no matter their offenses, they must serve 85% of their sentences. Prison sentences have spiked by 22% over the past decade as a result of this law while undermining the benefits of the program, like reducing recidivism.
We propose letting people earn up to 35% off of their sentences for certain convictions and retroactively applying credits for participation in programs that will count toward time off in the future. This measure enhances public safety and saves money––up to $2,600,000,00 in taxpayer dollars. Yep, that’s $2.6 billion dollars.
But beyond the math, as always when it comes to justice system issues, are human lives--people whom our policy choices can help or hurt, and people who can live with hope of rebuilding their lives or without it.
As we prepare for legislators to begin drafting legislation this fall in advance of next year’s session, we expect this issue, which got bipartisan momentum in the last session, to be high on our list of priorities.
Please take a moment to forward this email so we can make sure Floridians know about this common sense measure to give hope to thousands. Thank you, as always, for your support.
Carrie Boyd, Esq. Policy Director - Florida SPLC Action Fund