Legislation filed by Democrats this week in the Senate and the House would create a path for more “gain time” for inmates.
SB 1578 and HB 1243, filed by Sen. Shevrin Jones of Miami and Rep. Angie Nixon of Jacksonville, could potentially triple the gain time available to inmates.
If the legislation passes, inmates would be eligible for up to 180 days of gain time in exchange for completing personal or professional development courses, such as pursuit of educational or vocational credentials.
This would make them eligible for release earlier, and Nixon notes, other related benefits as well, including potential cost savings for a prison system struggling from a chronic lack of resources.
“I decided to run this bill for several reasons. I know that the state of Florida is facing a huge budget shortfall and this is a cost saving measure. Also, I know from firsthand conversations that many folks I have encountered that have left prison, if they learned skills while there, they were able to find jobs quicker than others they know hadn’t,” Nixon noted.
Nixon ran on criminal justice reform in her campaign, she noted, and Jones has been a historic ally in that work, so she was happy to carry the House companion, she noted.
And despite another year of tough on crime talk from Florida Republicans, Nixon believes the bill will get fair consideration in committees over the upcoming 60 days. She notes that the bill “can help lower the recidivism rate.”
And she notes that this is another way to allow people a pathway to fulfillment and self-respect, two necessary preconditions to rehabilitation.
“They would have the opportunity to gain life skills and job skills which helps people feel whole. Many folks commit crimes due to a lack of opportunity and poverty … developing skills to combat what caused many incarcerated folks to commit crimes in the first place is a form of rehabilitation,” Nixon notes.
“There are studies and reports that show when a formerly incarcerated individual gets a job in a field with good wages, they are less likely to recidivate.”
Neither the Jones nor the Nixon versions of the gain time bill have gotten committee references yet.