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Senate committee to consider early release for inmates legislation today

Brandes’ bills would create release programs for elderly and seriously ill inmates.

Some inmates could get the chance to leave prison early through legislation the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice will consider today.

State Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, is chair of the subcommittee and the sponsor of the three bills. 

Two of Brandes’ bills (SB 556) and (SB 574) affecting inmate sentences create programs for elderly and seriously ill inmates. SB 556, which has been replaced by a committee substitute, creates a program within the Florida Department of Corrections to consider the early release of ill prisoners. It repeals a prior Conditional Medical Release program that had been created under the Florida Commission on Offender Review. 

Inmates must have a debilitating illness, which can be terminal or not, or must be permanently incapacitated so that they don’t pose a danger to themselves or others. Under the bill, the director of inmate health services would review specified evidence and provide a recommendation to the three-member panel, who must conduct a hearing within 45 days of the referral to determine whether CMR is appropriate for the prisoner. If the release is approved, the inmate is released for the same amount of time as the length of time remaining on his or her sentence.

The victim is allowed to give input into the decision and if the prisoner’s medical condition improves, they could be taken back into custody to serve out the rest of their sentence. They can also go back to prison if they violate the conditions of their release. 

Brandes’ other bill that would release inmates early is SB 574, which was also replaced by a committee substitute.   

It would create a Conditional Aging Inmate Release Program within DOC. Eligible prisoners would qualify if they are 70 years old or older and have served at least 10 years of their sentence. Release can be revoked if the conditions of release are violated or a new crime is committed.

 DOC reports that the elderly inmate population has been steadily increasing over the last five years for an overall increase of 2,585 inmates or 12.5 percent.

His third bill (SB 560) renames the state’s Criminal Punishment Code to the Public Safety Code and changes the purpose of sentencing from punishing an offender to public safety. 

Written By

Sarah Mueller has extensive experience covering public policy. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2010. She began her career covering local government in Texas, Georgia and Colorado. She returned to school in 2016 to earn a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting. Since then, she’s worked in public radio covering state politics in Illinois, Florida and Delaware. If you'd like to contact her, send an email to sarah@floridapolitics.com.

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