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Lawmakers discuss wise use of tax dollars for crime

Following a three-day Smart Justice Summit held in Orlando, Sen. Greg Evers, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee; Rep. Dennis Baxley, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee; and Sen. Rob Bradley, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal & Civil Justice – talked about solutions for saving money and decreasing recidivism, while still being tough on crime.

Many of the ideas came from Smart Justice, which administered a public opinion poll to find out how Floridians want public officials to spend their tax dollars when it comes to crime. Among other things, the poll found that three-quarters of Floridians believe a lawmaker can support programs to lower recidivism while still being considered “tough on crime,” according to a Smart Justice news release.

Many of the poll questions centered around whether initiatives to lower prison time for non-violent offenders would lead to a candidate being labeled by constituents as soft on crime.  

Among the poll’s findings:

73 percent of the public favors laws that would reduce the number of non-violent criminals in Florida prisons.                                                                                                                                           78 percent believe a person can support Smart Justice initiatives and still be considered “tough on crime”
81 percent favor cost-effective treatment programs to prepare non-violent criminals to re-enter society
89 percent favor laws to establish supervised work release where the earnings would pay back victims, pay court costs or pay child support
73 percent favor sentencing laws that reduce the number of non-violent criminals in Florida prisons, saving substantial tax dollars
70 percent are more likely to support reforms when they are told that almost one-third of those released under current laws end up back in prison, but recidivism is substantially lower in states that have already implemented these programs
60 percent reject the notion that the number of crimes will go up if the threat of prison is removed for non-violent criminals