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TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 10/15/19-Rep. Dianne Hart, D-Tampa, center, speaks during a news conference on a bill being introduced to retroactively reduce the sentences of non-violent first-time offenders from 85 % of time served to 65 %, Tuesday during a news conference at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO


Dianne Hart criminal justice bill would define basic inmate rights

A proposed bill in the House would clarify some basic rights of Florida inmates, including housing needs and which inmates are eligible for early medical release.

Tampa Democrat Dianne Hart‘s bill (HB 531), filed last week, seeks to overhaul the education system to the benefit of inmates.

Department of Corrections staff must treat inmates decently, respectfully and fairly, the bill says. Also required would be ventilated housing and adequate access to meals.

Hart’s ex in-law, Carlton Hart, was allegedly beaten by a DOC officer in July, according to the Miami Herald. The officer was charged with malicious battery and perjury, but DOC officials said the case would be dismissed.

Hart also want to increase access to vocational and academic training for inmates. Her bill would guarantee a right to that access and require the department to conduct a study on strategies to increase inmate employment after their release.

More than a quarter of formerly-incarcerated Americans are unemployed, according to a 2018 report by criminal justice policy thinktank Prison Policy Initiative.

The bill’s third component outlines the qualifications for inmates to be given early medical release.

Inmates with chronic lung disease would be eligible for release, as would inmates at least 85 years old who have completed a third of their sentences or are eligible for parole. Inmates with physical disabilities who have completed half of their sentences and are incapable of physical labor would also be eligible.

The bill would also make inmates found unfit for physical labor and deemed not a threat to society due to a medical condition eligible for release.

Written By

Renzo Downey covers the Florida Legislature for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering the Texas House of Representatives for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.

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