State estimates show Florida could save hundreds of thousands of dollars if it were to allow certain inmates to be released from prison early.
If Senate and House proposals become law state economists believe the Department of Corrections could get rid of more than 25 beds during the next fiscal year, saving at least $566,075. That’s based on a full operating cost of $22,643 per inmate and comes from data provided to state economists by the DOC. The bills are sponsored by Fort Lauderdale Democrat, Rep. Bobby Dubose and St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes.
"What the legislation does is allow those that are 70 and older who have not been convicted of murder or terrorism, those types of events or of crimes that would get you on the sex offender registry to apply to the Department of Corrections for conditional aging release," Brandes explains.
He says the proposal "would align Florida with 17 other states and the District of Columbia." Currently Florida has more than 2,000 inmates over the age of 70, but Brandes says not all of them would make the cut.
"Only a little bit more than 168 would currently qualify for the conditional aging release program that we’ve outlined in this legislation. But, we believe hundreds more will come online in a few years."
If all 168 inmates were approved, the state would save millions. Another portion of the bill would make changes to the conditional medical release program for inmates. Brandes says the current system is sluggish.
“What we’re finding often is that by the time people make it all the way through the paperwork and the process that they are only released with a few days left to live," he says. "The department is submitting 140 individuals but less than half of those are being granted conditional medical release. So this should help streamline the process.”
The bill removes the Florida Commission of Offender Review from the process and sends cases to a three-member panel within the Department. That panel would determine whether an inmate is eligible for early release.