Bold ‘Outtakes’ idea gaining momentum

In the Jan. 5 issue, I suggested that the Escambia Board of County Commissioners work with Florida TaxWatch and the Florida Legislature to create a pilot program for criminal justice reform. Commissioner Grover Robinson likes the idea and has reached out to state lawmakers to discuss the idea.

Escambia County spends $35.8 million on detention. It is the largest department under its control. The county is set to spend about $120 million on a new county jail, the largest single capital expenditure in its history.

People are incarcerated for longer than they need to be, and tax dollars are diverted away from other services and capital needs. Recidivism is also an issue because too people get trapped in our criminal justice without having the means to break the cycle.

Florida Tax Watch has made the recommendations that we should consider:

• Expand the use of forensic mental health diversion programs.
• Reduce penalties for and divert “driving while license suspended” offenders;
• Restore judicial discretion for specific mandatory minimum cases;
• Develop risk/needs assessments and cost-analysis tools to be used at the time of sentencing;
• Increase the amount of usable gain time for nonviolent inmates;
• Lengthen the period of eligibility for and expand transitional work-release programs; and
• Promote strategies that improve released offenders’ employment opportunities.

Maybe we can implement a few of them this year. Read Outtakes.