The Florida Senate Criminal Justice Committee concluded that there is too much money being spent on someone who committed a minor criminal offense such as prisoner Cynthia Powell serving a 25 year sentence at the Homestead Correctional Institute in Miami, Florida. Mrs. Powell was arrested for selling 35 pills for $300. But she is not alone in the list of convicted felons who have committed minor crimes and are given minimum mandatory sentences for their actions.

End to minimum mandatory

The Committee voted unanimously in support of Senate Bill 290 which could end minimum mandatory convictions for minor offenses.

This change is very different compared to some of the bills being pushed through the Florida State Congress that include being much tougher on crime. SB 290 is a "Prison diversion bill" which could save the state almost $131 million in taxpayer dollars and could offer other options for people who have been convicted of a minor offense that would not include jail time. The bill could also help with decreasing the number of incarcerated people currently in the prison system by diverting minor offenses by putting 1,001 fewer people in jail.

Excluding sentences

The bill works with judges in the judicial system in Florida to end 118 minimum mandatory sentences in Florida, but those convicted of drug trafficking are excluded from the bill.

SB 290 would also restore the Florida Sentencing Commission that lasted from 1982 to its closure in 1997. But the scope of severity for punishment will be limited within the Commission and those depend on adding points to an offender's record based on the types of offenses committed. But any violent offense is not eligible for Minimum Mandatory Sentencing.

If there is a way to reduce minimum mandatory sentencing for first offenders, there could be options to help them with ways of getting financial and career success that would not involve turning to drug trafficking or other violent offenses that could end them up in prison. Hopefully we can reduce our prison numbers and in return, help those who have turned to their last resorts.