Governor Crist is committed to continuing today’s sentencing policies, which keep criminals off the streets and ensure that inmates serve greater portions of their court-imposed sentences. As a state Senator, Governor Crist sponsored landmark legislation requiring criminals to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences. The average percentage of time served by all inmates has risen from 78.8 percent in 1999, to 86.7 percent in 2007.
To continue the 85 percent requirement, Governor Crist proposes $342.9 million for prison construction, which will provide funding for prison beds to address the increasing inmate population. The Governor also recommends $28.8 million to implement a bold initiative to significantly expand substance abuse treatment to inmates and probationers who committed crimes as a result of substance abuse. This initiative protects the community by lessening the chances that ex-offenders will return to a life of crime fueled by the need for drugs and offers these offenders the opportunity to re-enter society drug free, so they can contribute in a positive manner to their communities. These measures will aid in closing the revolving door of criminal justice of the past.
I'm all for spending money on substance abuse treatment, but we should be able to offer it to folks without locking them up in prison.
Speaking of keeping them in prison longer, take a look at the graph, Keeping Criminals Behind Bars, at that link. Florida's non-violent offenders serve a greater percentage of their sentences than do the violent offenders. With the possible exception of people like Enron executives, I'm thinking we could save a hell of a lot of money by just turning the non-violent offenders loose. $343 million would provide health care for a lot of kids for instance.
Oh, wait... no new prisons would wipe out 990 of the 1300 or so new jobs that The People's Budget will bring us.
Speaking of health care for kids, we've got a lot of them here in Florida whose parents can't afford to buy them insurance, so Crist wants to expand enrollment in KidCare, the public program for poor kids. Unfortunately, if I'm reading these tables right [and I could be wrong, they don't make this straightforward] that $60.6 million increase in spending looks like it's going to be spent on administration, with about a $4.5 million cut in actual health care spending for poor kids.
Nor do I feel especially well-cared-for seeing what looks like a $29 million cut in Health Care Regulation.
Oh, and because dipping into capital to pay your bills is how the rich get richer [/snark]:
McDaniel said the budget depends on $1.1 billion taken out of reserve, including $740 million taken from agency trust funds.
Crist said the "unique challenges" faced by his administration necessitated the use of reserves. He said that even if his recommendations are followed, Florida will still have about $4.5 billion in reserves.