(Pic via allaroundphilly.com)

Going gets tough for justice reforms

By | 04.08.11 | 8:34 am

Last week, a Senate panel moved unanimously to ease up on part of Florida’s tough-on-crime tradition, easing mandatory sentences for drug offenders who can get stuck with lengthy prison sentences for carrying a handful of pills. Unfortunately, the measure seems to be struggling to find support elsewhere.

Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, the South Florida Republican who sponsored the bill, said the goal was to focus on treating addictions while continuing to punish bona fide drug traffickers, an approach she hoped would help curb Florida’s epidemic of prescription drug abuse.

Robet Weissert of Florida TaxWatch spoke in favor of the measure, which he said aligned with the goals of the Right on Crime movement, which aims to bring conservative credibility to criminal justice reform, in the name of saving taxpayers money. He said measures like Bogdanoff’s would also increase public safety.

But yesterday, the St. Petersburg Times reported there’s been a hitch: Gov. Rick Scott opposes changes to sentencing laws, and the measure is facing opposition in the House.

Scott likes to talk about competing with Texas Gov. Rick Perry. When Right on Crime advocate Grover Norquist was in Tallahassee recently, he pointed out that Texas has been leading the way on reforms championed by the initiative, such as giving judges flexibility to focus on reforming offenders who seem likely to respond to a less punitive (and less expensive) approach. If it can be done in Texas, he said, it can be done just about anywhere.

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