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Jeff Brandes files (another) criminal justice reform bill, this one to reduce sentences for reoffenders

The bill would qualify some reoffenders for shorter sentences.

Sen. Jeff Brandes filed another in a long line of criminal justice reform bills Friday.

His latest bill (SB 1716) seeks to reduce sentences for former inmates who reoffend within three years of being released from prison.

The measure would allow qualifying inmates to apply for a re-sentencing hearing to reduce their sentences.

People who are considered prison release reoffenders faces tougher penalties than first-time offenders. The bill maintains that consequence, but provides a path to reduce mandatory minimums under that provision slightly.

The measure would reduce life sentences to 25-years, first degree felony minimums from 30 years to 20 years, second degree felonies from 15 to 10 years and third degree felonies from five to three years.

The potential reduced sentences would apply retroactively. Individuals who qualified as a prison release reoffender before July 1, 2010 who have not been sentenced as such before July 1, 2020 cannot be sentenced as one.

Those who have been sentenced as a prison release reoffender after qualifying as such after July 1, 2010 would have to be re-sentenced under the bill’s new sentencing guidelines.

The bill would also add language to Florida sentencing laws making reoffenders eligible for gain-time credits to reduced their sentences and would protect individuals from facing more jail time under the new sentencing than they would have under their previous sentence when taking into consideration time served.

Prison release reoffender status applies to people convicted of a variety of offenses including murder, manslaughter, sexual battery, carjacking, robbery, arson, kidnapping, aggravated stalking and assault, among others who reoffend within three years of being released on charges resulting in sentences punishable by more than one year in prison.

Reoffender status also applies to those who commit crimes while still serving their sentence or who commit a crime as an escapee.

Brandes has filed more than a dozen criminal justice reform bills for the 2020 Legislative Session aiming to reduce prison population, protect prison guards and make the system as a whole more sustainable.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at Janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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