The editorial board of The Florida Times-Union calls out the Florida justice system for failing to accomplish what states like Texas and Georgia have realized through reform.
In response to the Florida TaxWatch’s report on how to lower the state’s recidivism rate, the board supports the report’s recommendations, such as expanding vocational and educational programs, issuing certificates of rehabilitation to those committed to a lawful life, and incentivizing businesses to hire ex-offenders through a state tax program.
In comparison to other nations, the authors argue, the United States imprisons far too many people. Florida alone has an incarcerated population of 150,000, and almost 3 million Floridians have some sort of criminal record.
In addition to lowering recidivism, reforms in Florida could also reduce the cost. For example, helping restored citizens find steady work that enables them to gain health insurance can significantly reduce the cost for taxpayers. In fact, the authors estimate that if only 100 restored citizens were to find well-paying jobs, taxpayers would save nearly $300,000.
Unfortunately the editorial board notes that a lack of emphasis on rehabilitative programs, coupled with nearly 800 barriers to education and employment, has kept many restored citizens out of the labor market. It is unsurprising that without education or employment opportunities, many may re-offend.
Although tax credits are a concerning way to address re-entry, there are a range of additional ideas for reform. Overall, the editorial board makes a strong case for why Florida needs to seriously consider reinvesting in rehabilitative programs and removing employment barriers so that restored citizens can have a decent chance to live a productive life.