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Measure Reducing Mandatory Minimum For Reoffenders Advances

Judge about to bang gavel on sounding block
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Judge about to bang gavel on sounding black.

Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) says the mandatory minimum penalties imposed on people who reoffend within a few years after getting released from prison are too harsh. Brandes is pushing a bill to reduce those sentences.

If someone commits a crime within three years of being released from a correctional facility for a crime that was punishable by more than one year, they’re subject to harsher penalties. Brandes says that leads to many people serving longer sentences than necessary.

Deborah Brennan, who volunteers at prisons supports the change. She told the story of an inmate she met.

"A man shared with me that 22 years ago he committed two armed robberies. Where he asked somebody to put some money in a bag and he left without hurting anyone. For that act he received two consecutive life sentences," said Brennan. "At sentencing, the judge apologized to him because he was forced to hand down that law because his hands were tied due to this excessive law."

Brandes’ proposed legislation would change the minimum mandatory of life in these cases to 25 years. If passed, the bill would apply retroactively. That means if the bill becomes law, the man in Brennan’s story would be resentenced and might not have to serve life behind bars.

Blaise Gainey is a State Government Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.