Do people deserve second chances? If a young person commits a first-time offense for a drug crime, should they really have to pay for it the rest of their lives? Is that fair? Is that what justice looks like?
With nationwide conversation about criminal justice reform growing louder and louder, an opinion piece published by the Sun Sentinel again asks the question “Do Florida’s mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws make sense?”
The piece calls attention to Florida’s inflated prison population and the number of people serving de-facto death sentences because their sentence does not allow hope for release within their lifetime. A particularly distressing number presented is that the number of elderly people in Florida prisons has risen by 327% over the last 20 years. The piece cites not only Florida’s mandatory minimum rules as a problem, but also the state’s harsh rules regarding no parole and little opportunity to earn time off long sentences. Further, the state offers few options even for those prisoners with severe medical conditions.
While there are certainly many ways that Florida can reform its criminal justice system, this article proposes starting with the elimination of mandatory minimums and making it retroactive so those imprisoned for extended periods because of them have the opportunity to move forward.
Having hope for reform is valuable, but all of this highlights just how important it is for those accused of crimes, even if they believe the crime to be minor or they think they were falsely accused, to act swiftly and aggressively to defend themselves against the charges. Overcoming criminal charges in the first place means not having to deal with outdated or overly harsh penalties. Everyone accused of a crime, whether it’s a drug crime or any other crime, has the right to fight back.