Florida corrections officials skeptical about proposal to move inmates closer to families


As a top Republican lawmaker champions criminal justice reforms, state corrections officials are skeptical about whether a proposal to house inmates closer to their primary residences is logistically possible.

State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, is trying to pass legislation (SB 642) that would enhance re-entry services for inmates and allow judges to depart from mandatory minimum sentencing related to drug-trafficking crimes.

Brandes, who chairs a Senate budget subcommittee overseeing criminal justice spending, also wants to move inmates to within 150 miles from their primary residence in an effort to alleviate strain on prisoners' families.

"FDC understands the importance of visitation and close family ties to the reduction of recidivism," Department of Corrections spokesman Patrick Maderfield said.

But, he added, "it is important to note that most of our prisons are in North Florida, and there’s not a proportionate amount of institutions located in counties where we receive large numbers of newly sentenced inmates."

Brandes' 'Florida First Step Act' mirrors federal legislation signed into law by President Donald Trump last year. State Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Naples, is sponsoring a companion bill, but the state House historically has been reluctant to pass sweeping prison reforms.

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