Florida Sheriffs sound alarm about ‘Truth in Sentencing’

With status quo under attack, lawmen mount defense.

With a number of bills in play that would reduce or mitigate current sentencing policy, Florida Sheriffs had their say defending mandatory minimum sentences.

On Tuesday, the Florida Sheriffs Association held a press event, highlighting its newly released Truth in Sentencing report and its likewise-new Florida Sheriffs Research Institute.

With live proposals for everything from changing mandatory minimums on drug policy to early release for old and infirm inmates, and a crisis in the prison system guiding the reform push, the Sheriffs’ message is that what they are doing works despite these systemic stressors.

FSA President and Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri lauded the research institute, saying it “makes certain the full impact of our current laws is properly assessed.”

The Sheriffs support current law requiring inmates to serve 85% of their time, saying that it has lowered both crime and the incarceration rate in the decades since instituted in 1995.

The report opposes “gain time” proposals that would let prisoners out after serving 65% of sentences, noting that first-time offenders are only 5% of the prison population. Gualtieri spent some time making the point that these bills would let dangerous people on the street.

Gualtieri noted that many so-called “first-time offenders” have made stops in county jail, and just 65 of them were first-time drug possession offenders.

“You about have to beg your way to state prison,” Gualtieri said.

Today, prisons are overcrowded by most accounts, with staffing and infrastructural issues endemic throughout the system.

“The system is not broken,” Gualtieri said, despite these issues.

Gualtieri said the “reform” push was driven often by anecdote and “ungrounded opinions,” with a misconception that prisons are full of people locked up for drug possession.

“Criminal justice reform … code for ‘let’s be soft on criminals’,” the Sheriff remarked.

Florida’s incarceration rate and prison occupancy rate have each dropped by double digits in recent years, Gualtieri added.

Due to “significant reductions in the likelihood of recidivism,” Gualtieri contends that current policy begets “less crime and fewer victims.”

The report leans on data from 2010 to evaluate recidivism, with text saying “at the time, the authors concluded that 85% time served had not resulted in longer prison sentences or overcrowding.”

“This is the data that’s out there … there haven’t been a lot of studies done more recently. It takes a long time to do this research,” Gualtieri noted.

Mitigation of sentence terms, he said, is a “facade.”

Gualtieri reiterated concerns about relaxing mandatory minimums in drug possession cases that he’s made in Senate committees, noting the FSA doesn’t support the Sen. Rob Bradley bill (SB 346) that would reduce mandatory minimum sentences by giving judges more discretion in sentencing.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


  • Andrew Nappi

    January 29, 2020 at 4:45 am

    I fully support a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in state prison for any Florida Sheriff who assists federal agents in the enforcement of federal “gun laws,” or participates in revenue sharing with any federal asset seizure.

  • Edward freeman

    January 29, 2020 at 6:33 am

    Nothing but a lobbying organization that promotes the status quo and those profiting from it.  The status quo is clearly not working.  While the number of drug dealers in prison has risen 3000% since 1980 from 15,000 to 450,000, drugs today are more abundant, cheaper and more deadly than ever.  So yes, if the Sheriff’s see their jobs as locking up more people than anywhere on the planet, to no positive effect, at a higher cost to taxpayer while simultaneously destroying families and communities, by that measure they are doing a great job.  If their job is to keep dangerous drugs out of the hand of our children, then could not have failed more spectacularly.  Drug are a public health issue, they should not a law enforcement issue.

    • MAS

      January 29, 2020 at 7:41 am

      You are absolutely correct. Amen to you sir. The prison is full of people that could certainly and should be able to function in society. My bet is that these LEO’s have never set foot in a prison to see the total corrupt nature of the beast that they created. Cruel and unusual punishment is what the FDOC has produced, along with the most corrupt system in the US. Just padding their pockets. There is no rehabilitation, no skills or job training available. It’s human warehousing, and this lobbying group is all about the profits to them and and status quo.

  • Rahl

    January 29, 2020 at 10:34 pm

    Sheriff Gualtieri is one of the most prolific mass incarcerators in Florida’s history. He was recently named “Sheriff of the Year” by the National Sheriff’s Association. But what they don’t tell you is that his “award” was a rigged process and the award itself was sponsored by “Turnkey Corrections”, a for-profit prison supply company that makes huge profits from ridiculously over priced commissary items like soap and toothpaste. Turnkey Corrections also lobbies county jails to get rid of face to face inmate visits so that visitors have to pay to see their loved ones on TV monitors. Turnkey also handles the over priced inmate phone systems that can cost inmates as much as $2.50 a minute to talk to their lawyers or family. Sheriff Gualtieri is one of their biggest customers and he worked the deal to get the award to help his political career in exchange for lobbying to keep more people in jail so both can make more money. With each one of these scams, the Sheriff gets a kickback. So the more people Sheriff Gualtieri puts in jail, the more money Turnkey Corrections and the Sheriff makes.

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