-Reform Florida’s Minimum Mandatory Sentencing Laws for Non-Violent First Time Drug Offenders-
Thanks go out to FAMM, Families Against Minimum Mandatory www.famm.org for the words to help express how serious this situation is.
Our vision is a nation in which sentencing is individualized, humane, and sufficient but not greater than necessary to impose just punishment, secure public safety, and support successful rehabilitation and reentry.
The laws for non violent drug offences, especially where possession is being called trafficking and given 25 year minimum mandatory sentencing are unjust and inhumane. Minimum mandatory sentencing allows prosecutors to railroad defendants into plea bargains with little to know effort on proving the quality of the case against them. Due to the possibility of serving an incomprehensibly lengthy prison term, a defendant without the means to afford private counsel to pose a costly defense must accept whatever offers are made to them, whether guilty or innocent. Judges should have the discretion to weigh the merits of each case and defendant independently and the sole right to impose a just sentence.
In the past few years Florida’s prison population has skyrocketed, and now stands above 100,000, a 20 percent increase from just five years ago and the third highest in the country. The costs associated with our prison population have exploded as well. In 1987, for every dollar spent on higher education, Florida spent 34 cents on corrections; today, it spends 66 cents. A significant portion of the increase in Florida’s prison population can be attributed to Florida’s harsh mandatory minimum sentences. For instance, Florida law defines drug “trafficking” as possession of a given weight of illegal drugs, and possession of 28 grams of illegal painkillers triggers a mandatory minimum 25-year prison sentence; no intent to distribute is required to trigger the mandatory minimum sentence. For perspective, the same crime in Texas carries a two-year sentence. While no doubt well-intentioned, Florida’s laws leave no room for a judge to determine whether a particular defendant deserves the sentence prescribed by the statute. This often leads to unjust outcomes.
Consider the case of my husband, John Horner. My husband was just sentenced to a 25 year min/man on Oct 12, 2012. HE IS A FIRST TIME NON-VIOLENT OFFENDER! He is 46 years old and has 3 children to provide for. Now the state will be providing for him in prison AND for his family to survive. I guarantee he wouldn't give another person an aspirin now, do you really think he will ever give someone a pain pill again?? You can't tell me that it will take 25 years for him to be "rehabilitated". He didn't know that helping someone out who had Crone's Disease would cost him his own life.
Obviously something is very wrong with Florida’s criminal justice system. We can no longer afford to keep nonviolent, first-time offenders in prison for decades. The current system is expensive, inefficient and in desperate need of reform. We need better, more creative solutions to our criminal justice problems, not more of the same. As a start, I respectfully urge you to support reform of Florida’s mandatory minimum sentencing laws.