State Of Florida Repeal The Mandatory Minimum Prison Releasee Reoffender Law!
State Of Florida Repeal The Mandatory Minimum Prison Releasee Reoffender Law!
What Is PRR? The PRR, prison releasee reoffender, under Florida Statute 775.082 means that convictions for any of a list of enumerated felony offenses committed within 3 years of release from prison mandates imposition of the statutory maximum sentence (life, thirty, fifteen, or five years, depending on the felony degree). The PRR does not take into consideration the type of offense for which the prior sentence occurred (i.e., it does not have to be a violent offense), nor does it take into consideration the number of prior offenses; it only takes the one prior prison sentence (and a qualifying current offense) to qualify. The PRR is a mandatory sentencing law that clearly designates the prosecutor as the most powerful person in sentencing. Prosecutors are not required under the law to file PRR status for qualifying offenders, but when they do judges cannot impose a lesser sentence, even if they feel the statutory maximum is unjust, because the PRR bypasses the usual sentencing guidelines altogether. PRR offenders may not earn gain time or other early release credits (unlike other habitual offender laws); instead, they must serve 100% of the statutory maximum sentence. Please allow us to provide a little history regarding this law.
In 1997, following the United States Supreme Court opinion in Lynce v. Mathis, the Florida Supreme Court issued an opinion requiring the Department of Corrections to restore previously revoked provisional credits (gain time credits) to some prisoners who had lost them as a result of a 1992 opinion by then Attorney General Butterworth. This decision outraged lawmakers and law enforcement, and this decision paved the way for the PRR which was immediately sponsored by Representative Victor Crist and Representative Adam Putnam, but ultimately co-sponsored by 32 legislators, and the PRR was signed into law without the governor's signature on May 30, 1997. However, on review of Lynce v. Mathis, this affected immediately only 164 individuals who had been released, and reinstated credits to 2,789 inmates who were still in custody.
Although there were already habitual offender laws on the books in Florida at the time, the PRR bill gave even more power to prosecutors because the law mandated judges to impose the enhancement if the prosecutor sought the PRR designation. Due to the timing of the supreme court decision regarding gain time credits and when the PRR was signed into law, it's clear that this law had nothing to do with "public safety," and more to do with politics. Furthermore, this bill was signed into law without fiscal consideration, meaning the cost implications of this law were not considered. There are approximately 9,000 individuals currently in prison under the PRR, over 1,800 having received life sentences, and of those life sentences the majority were sentenced for robbery.
Following, you will read the cases of 4 individuals sentenced under these guidelines. After reading these cases we will beg the question, does the punishment fit the crime? We believe it does not, and we hope you will agree. We are proposing the PRR subsection be repealed and made retroactive to its inception. Please help make our proposal a reality by signing and sharing this petition.
Dorian Mackeroy: In 1998, at the age of 23, Dorian was sentenced to life under the PRR in Pinellas County for robbery with a firearm. His victim was not physically injured. The prior sentence that qualified him for the PRR was robbery with no gun/deadly weapon at the age of 16. At that time, however, since he was simply only with the other youth who actually committed the crime, he took a plea of 4 years as a youthful offender as a principal to robbery. Dorian was released from that sentence on September 30, 1994. Since the PRR was not passed until May 30, 1997, Dorian would not have received the PRR “warning” notice as required by the statute. Due to the qualifying PRR offense of robbery and his past offense of robbery at the age of 16, even though he plead to a lesser charge and did not even actually commit the first robbery, he was also designated as a “habitual violent felony offender,” though he physically hurt no one in either of the offenses. The HVFO was later stricken per court order on August 24, 2004, but the PRR life sentence was left intact. The lowest possible sentence Dorian could have received under the usual guidelines is 6-1/2 years, and the maximum prison sentence he could have received under the usual guidelines is 11 years. Even with his life sentence, Dorian has managed to take as many programs as are offered for those serving life. Dorian is married and has 3 children, many grandchildren and a large extended family who are supportive. Dorian has been incarcerated for 23 years. It has already cost the state approximately $500,000 to house Dorian, and if he spends the next 33 years in prison (average life expectancy for a male is 78 years) it will cost the State approximately $750,000 more.
Jonathan Beaudry: In 2003, at the age of 21, Jon received his first felony conviction in Florida for fleeing and alluding police officers, which he committed due to driving with a suspended license. He served 1 year in the county jail. Sometime after getting out, he was arrested for a trespassing charge. After bonding out, and then returning to serve time on that charge, he was unaware that the 5 cigarettes he had in his pocket would bring him his second felony charge of attempting to bring contraband into a correctional facility. He served 18 months in prison for the contraband charge and was released on July 7, 2005. After being released, he held a job as a cook during the day and obtained night jobs at 2 other restaurants. Around September of that year he opted to pursue a better-paying job, but after 2 months of working there the raise he was promised never materialized, and feeling very frustrated, he quit. To his dismay, he had trouble finding another job, and with Christmas on the horizon he began to feel desperate. On December 22, 2005 he says he made the biggest mistake of his life—committing an armed robbery with a knife to obtain money for Christmas presents and groceries for the holidays. Jon spent 1 year in jail awaiting trial and was found guilty. Due to Jon having spent the 18 months in prison on the contraband charge, he would ultimately be sentenced under the PRR law and received a life sentence--even though the victim did not want Jon to receive such a harsh sentence, and even wrote a statement to that effect. The judge, as well, did not agree to the life sentence but had no discretion under the PRR guidelines and had to sentence Jon to life without parole, even though under normal sentencing guidelines he would have scored out at 5 years. Jon was 25.
James Wilson: In 2003, at the age of 19, James was charged with the sale/manufacture/delivery of marijuana. He was sentenced to prison with a sentence length of 1 year and 1 day. Approximately 2 years later, James would find himself homeless, living out of his van. In June of 2005, he attempted to steal a woman’s purse as she was putting her items in her car at a Wal-Mart so he could get money for a hotel room. The robbery lasted approximately 5 minutes and James was able to take her purse which contained approximately $50. He was ultimately charged with robbery with a firearm (later changed to robbery with a weapon), and kidnapping. James was offered a plea deal and would have spent only 10 years in prison had he accepted, but he was confident he would be found not guilty on the kidnapping charge since he had not moved or attempted to take the victim anywhere. The State’s key witness, his ex-girlfriend, testified that James’s intent was to steal the victim’s purse for money for a hotel room and not to kidnap the victim, but he was still found guilty of kidnapping. Therefore, due to his previous prison time for marijuana, he was deemed a prison releasee reoffender. If he had not been, the judge could have sentenced him within the usual guidelines, but under the PRR law the judge had no discretion and had to sentence him to life in prison without parole. James was 21.
William Jennings: In 1995, at the age of 19, William was arrested for strong arm robbery while a student at an art school. Unbeknownst to his loving family, William had a drug addiction. After service approximately 18 months in prison for individuals under the age of 21, William worked in the family business and had plans of starting his own company. Not being familiar with the prison system, William’s family expected he would have received some type of drug addiction treatment while in prison and would be released “drug-free.” However, William did not receive any addiction counseling/treatment while in prison. Less than 2 years later, in order to pay for his untreated addiction, he would go on to commit several more robberies. Although convicted of 2 counts of armed robbery, William never pulled a gun on anyone. One of the victims indicated he had seen the butt of a gun inside William’s jacket, and that was enough for the weapon charge. William was even dubbed “the gentleman robber” because of how polite he was, even returning one victim’s wallet back to them because he knew they would need their identification, etc. Even with the armed robbery charges, William scored out at only 9 to 16 years in prison under the usual guidelines. However, due to the previous unarmed robberies, William was also determined to be a Prison Releasee Reoffender, and due to these guidelines the judge had no discretion in the case and had to sentence him to life without parole. William was 21.
We must make it clear that we are not insinuating that these individuals did not deserve some type of jail/prison time for their crimes. We are not saying these individuals are innocent of their crimes. Our argument is, do these individuals, and so many others like them, deserve a LIFE sentence? Without the PRR law, as noted above, William Jennings scored to 9-16 years, James Wilson scored to 8.5 years, and neither the victim nor the judge in Jon’s case felt he should receive life, and scored to 5 years. And yet, because of the one-size-fits-all type of statute the PRR is with judges having no discretion, all three of these individuals were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, a sentence usually given to individuals who commit much more heinous crimes. It costs approximately $20,000 a year to house someone in prison in Florida. Based on their ages, Jon, James and William could potentially spend 50 years in prison, or approximately $1 million each. At 5 years for Jon, it should have been $100,000; at 8 years for James $160,000; and at even 16 years for William $320,000. Due to the PRR, the State of Florida, i.e. the taxpayers, will pay approximately $2,420,000 more than they should have had to pay.
Due to all of the above, we propose the Prison Releasee Reoffender subsection be repealed and stricken from Florida Statute 775.082, and made retroactive to its inception of 5/30/1997, giving the discretion of sentencing based on the circumstances of each individual case back to the judges--where it belongs.