Florida Law Enforcement Groups: Drug Offenders in State Prison Are Violent and Not Low Level Offenders

On Tuesday, law enforcement groups met at the Florida Capitol to push back against the “myth that drug offenders in the state prison are non-violent, low level offenders.”

The Florida Sheriffs Association (FSA) and Florida Police Chiefs Association (FPCA) released their findings on the state prison population.

“Data from the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) establishes that most inmates incarcerated in Florida’s prisons (56 percent) have been previously convicted of violent offenses, and over 95 percent of all prisoners are repeat offenders. Despite these facts, advocates for eliminating minimum mandatory sentences and releasing drug offenders 35 percent earlier than their judge-imposed sentences have recently identified these repeat criminals as low-risk, non-violent offenders. An analysis of inmate data from the Department of Corrections shows this assertion is wrong,” the two groups noted.

“A recent analysis examined the criminal history of the 10,917 inmates in FDC custody as of October 2019, who were convicted of a drug-related crime. These inmates accounted for a total of 394,019 prior criminal charges, or an average of 36 charges per inmate, prior to their current incarceration,” the groups added.  “Most importantly, 85 percent of these drug offender inmates committed a forcible felony, a burglary, or both prior to their current prison sentence. Forcible felonies are violent crimes committed against a person.”

Reviewing almost 11,000 prisoners currently held by FDC over drug-related offenses, the law enforcement groups noted “on average, each inmate had 36 prior criminal charges and an average of 18 convictions” and “85 percent of these inmates committed a prior forcible felony, a burglary or both, prior to the current state incarceration.”

Reviewing almost 2,200 drug trafficking offenders currently held by FDC, the groups noted “on average, each drug trafficker had 18 prior criminal charges and 16 convictions” and found “88 percent of these inmates committed a prior forcible felony, a burglary or both, prior to their current state incarceration.”

“As the data shows in this report, there are no first-time drug offenders ending up in our state prisons. These inmates have long criminal histories that have led them to this point of state incarceration. It is now up to these inmates, after numerous interactions with the criminal justice system, to decide if they want to be rehabilitated or to continue their criminal behavior after their release. We should continue to offer a helping hand toward their rehabilitation, but not at the expense of handing out lesser sentences after these criminals have already turned away from numerous second chances,” the law enforcement groups noted.

“This analysis debunks the myths of the criminal justice reform debate regarding our state prisons being full of first-time drug offenders,” said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, the president of the FSA. “The state prisons are made up of inmates with long criminal histories. Of the 10,917 drug-related offenders currently in the Florida Department of Corrections, 85 percent of these inmates committed a prior forcible felony, a burglary or both, prior to the current state incarceration.”

“The vast majority of criminals in prison for drug-related crimes are high-risk, violent offenders,” said Chief Gary Hester, the government affairs coordinator for the Florida Police Chiefs Association. “And the vast majority of them are repeat offenders – they keep committing crimes, over and over. And this report proves it.”


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