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Florida Sheriffs: No, State Prisons Are Not Filled With ‘Low-Risk, Non-Violent Offenders’

For some time now, the Social Justice Warriors have sought to make the case that many of our prisons are packed with “nonviolent” drug offenders who, if released, would pose little to no threat to society.

This argument goes something along the lines that “mass incarceration,” particularly of black and brown inmates, is the result of an overzealous, misguided and ultimately pointless “war on drugs,” rooted in the “systemic racism” of society at large

Yet the Florida Sheriffs Association Research Institute has released a report that debunks that myth.

Crunching data from the state Department of Corrections, the institute points out that 86 percent of repeat drug offenders “have committed a forcible felony, a burglary, or both prior to their current prison sentence.”

As the institute noted in a statement, “Despite these facts, advocates for eliminating minimum mandatory sentences and releasing drug offenders 35% earlier than their judge-imposed sentences have repeatedly identified these repeat criminals as low-risk, non-violent offenders.”

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“An analysis of inmate data from the Department of Corrections once again shows this assertion to be incorrect.”

In sum, they analyzed the criminal histories of 10,235 inmates in DOC custody as of February 2021 who were convicted of repeat drug-related crimes.

“These inmates accounted for a total of 337,152 prior criminal charges, or an average of 33 charges per inmate, prior to their current incarceration,” the report observes.

Researchers severed drug traffickers from other drug offenders.

They found that of the 8,201 repeat drug-related offenders held by the DOC, each inmate on average had faced 36 prior criminal charges and 18 prior convictions. Within that group, 86 percent of these inmates committed a prior forcible felony, a burglary, or both, before they did what they did to end up in prison now.

Of the 2,034 repeat drug traffickers now incarcerated by the DOC, each of them had on average 19 prior criminal charges and 16 prior convictions. And a slightly higher rate, 89 percent, of these inmates had committed a previous forcible felony, a burglary, or both, before the current convictions that landed them in prison now.

Under state law, burglary is a forcible felony, but according to the report, so are treason; murder; manslaughter; sexual battery; carjacking; home-invasion robbery; robbery; arson; kidnapping; aggravated assault; aggravated battery; aggravated stalking; aircraft piracy; unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb; and any other felony that involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against anyone.

The researchers excluded arrests in cases that were not resolved, even if they may have qualified as a forcible felony.

In the report, researchers noted that they had released a similar report a year ago.

“The paper debunked the myth that our state prison system was full of low-level, nonviolent drug offenders,” the study stated.

“Since that publication, the state’s prison population has declined by 17%, and . . . the analysis illustrates that once again that drug offenders in state prison are not low-risk, non-violent offenders.”

In their conclusion, the authors maintained, “AQrguments that cast Florida’s prison population as largely composed of low-level, non-violent drug offenders who are of little to no threat to public safety are dispelled by this data. Furthermore, the assertion that large segments of the prison population consisting of non-threatening inmates is one elemental step away from the notion that local communities are being over-policed when law enforcement engages in the enforcement of drug laws.”

They then blew bigger holes in the SJW narrative.

“Sheriffs strongly support appropriate rehabilitation efforts for those involved in the criminal justice system. But lost in the debate over criminal justice reform is the fact that today, inmates are offered second chances and numerous opportunities to rehabilitate themselves,” the report states.

They point out that the DOC’s $75 million annual budget includes funding for education, technical training, and life skills training to inmates.

Yet, “Inmates identified in this report have long criminal histories that have led them to state incarceration.”

“These inmates were offered educational assistance, drug treatment, and access to recovery support services while incarcerated. It makes little sense for criminal justice reformers to advocate for further reducing the sentences of inmates facing 10 years in prison, upon their 18th conviction, in order to ‘incentivize’ them to engage in the rehabilitative process and accept the services which were available to them all along.”

In a statement, Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson, chairman of the association’s research arm, said, “As the data shows in this report, 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,” Adkinson added, “but not at the expense of handing out lesser sentences after these criminals have already turned away from numerous second chances.”

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