Yep, that’s Rand Paul (libertarian-leaning president hopeful) rubbing literary shoulders with Marco Rubio (GOP president hopeful), Cory Booker (2020?), along with Hillary (need we even say it?) and Bill (potential First Hubby), all in the interest of rethinking mass incarceration policies. The marquee politicos – and there are many, many more- are putting their political weight behind prison reform in the Brennan Center’s newly released Solutions: American leaders Speak out on Criminal Justice Reform.It’s probably impolite to mention just how many of these same voices were previously raised in favor of stiffer sentencing, a key reason why prisons in Florida and elsewhere are now stuffed with the mentally ill, drug addicts and low-level offenders.
Florida embraced those tough laws under governors Lawton Chiles (liberal Dem) and Jeb Bush (conservative Rep). It now claims the third largest prison population in the country. Florida’s Department of Corrections is the state’s largest agency and a black hole of appropriations: It swallows every dollar in its path.
How bad is it? Until recently in Florida, seven illicitly obtained tablets of hydrocodone- the same painkiller you typically get after a visit to the dentist- would get you a trafficking sentence and an automatic three years.