Florida TaxWatch CEO Dominic Calabro says implementing some of the recommendations made by Rick Scott's transition team on juvenile justice will save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. Specifically, Calabro's organization and the Southern Poverty Law Center want Florida legislators to agree to the suggestion not to incarcerate juveniles guilty of misdemeanors, saying it could save $30 million annually. But what about lawmakers who want to make sure voters see them as "tough on crime?" The SPL's Vanessa Carroll says this: "The research shows that when you put those children into residential facilities they're going to be more likely to reoffend. So that's actually not helping public safety." As it is now, 70 percent of the juveniles behind bars are there for nonviolent crimes, and 44 percent are there for misdemeanors and probation violation.
Calabro, whose organization was represented on Scott's law and order transition team group, said that given the state's budget crisis, he expects lawmakers this session will be more open to ideas for saving money in the criminal justice system.
As to the transition team's proposal to merge the departments of Juvenile Justice and Children and Families, one of many organizational mergers contemplated by Scott, Calabro gives that a thumbs up, even though he acknowledges the logistics of such consolidations can be problematic. “Historically, the juice has not been worth the squeeze. You usually end up with more costs. But in this case, because of the nature of this governor, because of his orientation, because of his commitment, I think you will see substantial cost reductions. I actually applaud him for thinking like that," he said.