Recently, The Sentencing Project reports: Florida's Disenfranchisement Policies "Arguably the Most Restrictive Criteria in the Nation." On February 4, 2014, Florida also heard a case regarding the backwards "Timely Justice Act" to speed up executions to be determined at an undisclosed future date. Although many states are progressing in the opposite direction, Florida leads the nation with restrictive policies on disenfranchisement, the death penalty, and prison population.
"[A]t least 31 states have adopted criminal justice policies that may have helped reduce the prison population, or lower the social and economic barriers faced by people with prior convictions, according to a companion report released Thursday, also by The Sentencing Project."
It is often reported that a Judge had to issue an extreme sentence because of mandatory minimums, but just as the "Timely Justice Act" may impose constraints on public officials, similarly, judicial restraints may make it uncomfortable to sentence below the guidelines as given in United States v. Booker (2005), mentioned by The Sentencing Project
"Today, judges are allowed to vary from the sentencing guidelines when they feel that the recommended sentence is too severe. That’s been true since the landmark case United States v. Booker in 2005, when the Supreme Court struck down the provision of the sentencing law requiring judges to follow the guidelines."
The beginning of the end of the war on drugs, successfully legislated with the help of many advocates, notably Families Against Mandatory Minimums, FAMM, is not the only answer to correcting the massive prison population. Re-instituting Florida parole would be one way that could help correct the injustice to many incarcerated for long prison terms that do not fit the crime.
Correctly gathered empirical data is better suited to implement policy as explained by Anne Milgram, former N.J. Attorney General (see video "Why Smart Statistics are the Key to Fighting Crime").
The Washington Post (2011) contrasts public opinion with facts based on data.
"The prison population is [not only] rising because more people are being sentenced to prison. In the 1980s and early 1990s, the number of people sent to prison grew mainly because of the war on drugs. The number of drug offenders sentenced to state prisons increased by more than 300 percent from 1985 to 1995.
Longer prison terms more than new prison sentences have fueled the prison population expansion. These are a result of mandatory sentencing measures such as “three strikes” laws and limits on parole release. Today, 140,000 prisoners, or one of 11 inmates, are incarcerated for life, many with no chance of parole."
On February 4, 2014, the Florida Supreme Court heard and argued the case of Abdool v. Bondi (SC13-1123), a case against the Timely Justice Act which is meant to speed up executions in Florida, a state with extreme death penalty trial errors.
The American Bar Association published "The Florida Accelerates Death Penalty Process with 'Timely Justice Act'"in Volume VI Issue 2 (Summer 2013):
"Since 1976, the state has executed 77 people; during that same time appellate courts have found that 24 Florida death row prisoners were wrongfully convicted. That is roughly one exoneree for every three prisoners executed. The Act does nothing to correct this problem; rather it further curtails appellate review by accelerating executions."
Emily Bazelon agrees:
"The Timely Justice Act also puts Florida out of step with the rest of the country. Nationally, the number of executions has been falling. California and North Carolina haven’t executed anyone since 2006. Illinois, Connecticut, and Maryland recently repealed their death penalties. Even Texas, the nation’s leader in executions, will have to slow down to fix problems with its law, according to a recent Supreme Court ruling."
The Palm Beach Post reports a defense concern:
"Among the top concerns with the new law are limits on appeals that can be made once a warrant is signed. Only 19 of the 75 prisoners executed in Florida since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976 were put to death after their first warrant, the lawyers wrote. "
One may say, that is the point of the "Timely Justice Act," but looking at the error rate at trial for what could be an irreversible mistake compels its reversal.