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Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability

Parole and Early Release, Report No. 19-13, November 2019
 
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  • Florida currently has few mechanisms for early prison release. Due to the state’s determinate sentencing requirements, which specify that a prisoner must serve 85% of their sentence, most inmates are released when their sentence ends. Gain-time, awarded to inmates by the Florida Department of Corrections for institutional adjustment, educational program completion, and good behavior, is the only opportunity eligible inmates have to earn a sentence reduction.
  • Some inmates may also be released prior to sentence expiration to community supervision. Some of these mechanisms are discretionary and require a formal release decision from the Florida Commission of Offender Review for offenders to serve the remainder of their court-imposed sentence in the community under strict terms of supervision. Very few inmates are granted release this way—66 in Fiscal Year 2018 19. Conditional release and addiction recovery supervision are non-discretionary release programs in which inmates are released to mandatory post-prison supervision after they serve their sentence. While more inmates— 6,375 in Fiscal Year 2018-19—are granted release under these programs, the programs are limited to inmates with violent or habitual criminal histories or with a substance abuse history.
  • Florida is 1 of 16 states that abolished parole between 1976 and 2000 and have not reinstated it. Florida still exercises parole authority over offenders whose crimes occurred prior to the state’s abolishment by making release decisions and retaining revocation authority for offenders under parole supervision. Like Florida, the majority of states employ the use of gain-time as a mechanism to reduce an offender’s overall sentence. In terms of other release programs, compassionate release for offenders with terminal illness or other medical conditions is the most common early release program in other states. However, although many states have compassionate release as an early release program, it is rarely used.
  • Florida could modify its prison release mechanisms. If the Legislature increases the number of inmates eligible for release from prison, consideration should be given to the types and characteristics of offenders who would be eligible and the role that risk assessments, supervision level, and service provision have in helping to ensure public safety and support reentry success. Modifications could include reinstating parole, modifying truth in sentencing thresholds, and expanding discretionary release options for infirmed elderly inmates and those with debilitating illnesses. Stakeholders support using any savings resulting from early release for correctional system infrastructure and services to support reentry.

Which Government Program Summaries contain related information?

Department of Corrections
Community Corrections
Florida Commission on Offender Review

    Copies of this report in print or alternate accessible format may be obtained by telephone (850/488-0021), by FAX (850/487-9213), in person, or by mail (OPPAGA Report Production, Claude Pepper Building, Room 312, 111 W. Madison St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-1475).
    e-mail address: oppaga@oppaga.fl.gov


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