The Florida legislative session ran from March 7 to May 5, 2023.
FAMM is working in Florida to reform the state’s outdated and harmful mandatory sentencing laws, oppose new mandatory sentences and enhancements, create more second chances for people serving lengthy sentences, and advocate better prison conditions and increased accountability and transparency for all prison facilities. Florida has one of the country’s largest prison systems, a severe understaffing crisis in its prisons, and many excessive sentencing laws, including a requirement that all people in prison must serve at least 85 percent of their sentence, regardless of their rehabilitation.
For answers to questions about FAMM’s work in Florida, please contact Daniel Landsman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For Floridians with loved ones in prison who want to get connected to other Florida families and advocates, get in touch with Florida Cares at https://floridacarescharity.org/.
Read the stories of real people who’ve been impacted by Florida’s criminal justice system to learn more about why we’re working for reform in the state:
2023 Laws and Policy
Update: Unfortunately, this bill did not pass.
HB 537 (Rep. Hart) – If passed, this bill would establish a Citizens Oversight Council within Department of Corrections with the power to do unannounced visits and inspections of state prison facilities and make recommendations to the classification teams. FAMM supports this bill
Update: Unfortunately, this bill did not pass.
HB 115 (Rep. Hart) – If passed, this bill would allow people to serve 65 percent rather than 85 percent of the sentence, depending on the number of outstanding deed gain time, good behavior time, and rehabilitation credits a person earns in prison. FAMM supports this bill.
“Prison Releasee Reoffender” (PRR) sentencing reform
Florida’s “Prison Releasee Reoffender” law requires the maximum sentence, including life without parole, for certain crimes committed within three years of being released from prison or county jail for a felony offense. The legislature should repeal PRR and other habitual offender laws and allow courts to decide appropriate sentences. Unfortunately, this bill did not pass.
SB 746 (Sen. Brandes)
Conditional Medical and Geriatric Release
Almost a quarter of Florida’s prison population is age 50 or older. Older prisoners are the most expensive to house and the least likely to reoffend upon release. The legislature should establish a conditional aging prisoner release program, and a conditional medical release program, within the Department of Corrections to allow for early release for elderly and ill people. Unfortunately, this bill did not pass.
SB 782 (Sen. Perry)
SB 784 (Sen. Perry)
Earned Credits/Rehabilitation Credits
Florida is one of just a handful of states that does not allow anyone to earn more than 15 percent off a sentence by participating in education courses, drug treatment, and other recidivism-reducing rehabilitative programming. The legislature should expand rehabilitation credits to allow prisoners to earn up to a 35 percent reduction in sentence. Unfortunately, this bill did not pass.
HB 171 (Rep. Hart)
SB 1486 (Sen. Bracy)
Prison Reform and Oversight
Florida’s state prisons cost taxpayers billions but operate without transparency and accountability. Many facilities are overcrowded, understaffed, lack proper health care and rehabilitative programming, and are dangerous for both staff and incarcerated people. FAMM supports
- the creation of an independent prison oversight agency for Florida’s prison system to inspect and monitor prisons and investigate complaints
- policies that help incarcerated people and their families stay connected, like being able to make free phone calls, receive paper copies of letters and cards from home, or have overnight visits at state prisons for family members.
HB 305 (Rep. Hart) – would establish a citizens’ oversight board for the Department of Corrections
SB 1634 (Sen. Book) – would require the Department of Corrections to provide phone calls to incarcerated people for free
Unfortunately, these bills did not pass.
Opposing New Mandatory Sentences
Florida already has too many mandatory minimum sentences and mandatory sentencing enhancements. The state does not need any more of these laws. FAMM opposes new mandatory minimums and sentencing enhancements.
HB 95 (Rep. Plakon) – If passed, this bill would make it easier to convict people of first degree murder if they give or sell drugs to another person and that person overdoses and dies. This offense carries a mandatory life without parole sentence.
Update: Unfortunately, HB 95 passed on March 11, 2022. However, the final version was not as harmful as the original version. As passed, HB 95 adds methamphetamine to the list of drugs that, if death results from the drug’s use, can trigger a mandatory life without parole sentence for “death by distribution.” However, as passed, HB 95 does not make it easier to convict people for “death by distribution” offenses. The final bill does not, as the original bill did, water down the requirement that the drug had to be an actual cause of the overdose death.
FAMM supported numerous bills introduced in the state legislature in 2021. These bills would have reformed sentencing laws and improved prison conditions. Unfortunately, none of these bills became law in 2021.