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Lawmaker Promotes Early Release for Inmates

October 31, 2011

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Clearing Florida's bulging prison population is the topic of the state House Criminal Justice Subcommittee. The debate is about HB177, a bill to provide early release for non-violent drug offenders who are currently clogging prisons and crimping the state's budget. Rep. Ari Porth (D-Coral Springs) introduced it.

"In the language in the bill, you have to serve 50 percent of your sentence before being reconsidered for re-entry."

Porth says he did not expect much opposition, especially since a bill like this one was approved by this committee last year. Although at that time most of the lawmakers on the panel voiced their opposition to the bill, it passed favorably 12-3.

Rep. Carlos Trujillo (R-Miami) agrees that the overall concept of helping offenders with drug rehabilitation is on the right track, but says he cannot get on board with the bill as a whole.

"In order for a person to go to Florida State Prison on a third-degree but non-violent felony, they have to have a ton of priors. You're looking at people who have had not their first, their second, their third, their fourth or their fifth chance. You're talking about people who are on their 17th and 20th."

The senate sponsor of the bill is Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff (R-Fort Lauderdale). The bill's next committee stop is the House Rule-Making and Regulation Subcommittee. The legislative session begins in January.



Les Coleman, Public News Service - FL