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News Story
Updated: 04/22/2014 06:17:19PM

An itch that

must be scratched

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Like most columns, these musings frequently rely on hours of hard digging and analysis by determined journalists. It leaves me free to comment on their report. Today’s offering is a case in point. Three legislative issues just itch to be addressed. On the top of my mind are some further thoughts about ALEC, the size of our Florida prison population and the ease with which a majority of our state House legislators turned down a few billion in federal Medicaid dollars.

First, a word about our outsized prison population. As the state felony laws demand more long-term prison sentences, we join the nation in locking up more of our fellow citizens than any other advanced civilization. We have 5 percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. We have locked up 2.2 million people or one in every 107 adults. It is hard to believe that Americans are four times as likely to choose a life of crime as Egyptians, Japanese, Frenchmen, Greeks, Italians, Brazilians or Brits. Drug sales, sometimes of tiny amounts, account for a large share of the mandatory sentencing in the U.S. Given the cost of incarceration, shorter sentences, rehab programs and the teaching of a viable trade or skill might save the state a lot of money. Added to the prison population, in Florida and some other states, we have substituted jails for both long- and short-term mental health facilities.

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