Department of Corrections wants Gov. Scott to open more prisons
By Roger Caldwell
Incarceration is big business in Florida and after closing several prisons in 2012, the Department of Corrections wants some of them re-opened. African Americans make up 17 percent of the population in Florida, but they make up 50 percent of the prison population. Based on the projection for next year, it is expected that the prison population will increase by 3 percent.
It is my belief that these prisons are being re-opened to accommodate more African Americans and Hispanic prisoners. There are now 101,000 prisoners in the system and 41,000 of these prisoners have long sentences, because of the maximum sentencing guidelines. The system is overcrowded and it is costing the taxpayers $2.4 billion.
All over the country states are working to decrease and lower their prison population, but Governor Scott is doing the opposite. In 2011, the Clemency Board, consisting of Governor Scott, Pam Bondi, Jeff Atwater, and Adam Putnam decided to make it harder for released prisoners to get their civil rights restored. It now takes almost ten years for ex-prisoners to get their rights restored, so they can vote, run for office and serve on a jury.
Florida ranks high on the list of states that disenfranchise ex-prisoners, and it is considered an international violation under the U.N. Human Rights Committee. There are 1.5 million Floridians who are disenfranchised and African Americans are disproportionately impacted. Joyce Henry, Regional Director of Florida ACLU says,”23 percent of African Americans in Florida of voting age are disenfranchised. Nearly one in four has lost the right to vote.”
Florida is one of the most restrictive states in the country and the judicial system is under fire on how it has handled the George Zimmerman Trial. Many believe the verdict was unfair, and if you are an African American, your rights will be violated in Florida.
In Jacksonville, Marissa Alexander was sentenced to 20 years for shooting a gun at the wall and harmed no one. She will receive another trial, but the first verdict was an example of profound injustice. As Governor Scott prepares to execute Darius Kimbrough on November 12, 2013, our governor has decided to speed up capital punishment in the state. Mr. Kimbrough was convicted with DNA evidence, and the prisoner claims that he is innocent.
The entire justice system in Florida is broken, dysfunctional, and corrupt. There are too many nonviolent drug offenders in prison and costing the taxpayers $18,000 a year to house them. The criminal sentencing must be changed and there is a need for a conversation on who should be put in prisons.
A large majority of African Americans are in jail as a result of nonviolent drug convictions. One way Florida can save money is by using diversion and intervention programs with families and half-way houses.
Instead of developing a program connecting prisoners to a skill or a job, our governor will probably open up more prisons and increase the department of Corrections budget. Felons will continue to be disenfranchised and our governor will brag that he is tough on crime. Being tough on crime does not save taxpayers’ money; improve the disenfranchisement of Florida prisoners, and stop the state as being an international violator of human rights.