Is Harsher Punishment the Answer? Florida Legislators Think Yes

Finebloom, Haenel & Higgins

Is Harsher Punishment the Answer? Florida Legislators Think Yes

Statistically, the United States is the most jailed country in the world, with evidence supporting the fact that one out of a hundred United States residents will spend time in prison. The homicide rate in America still ranks in the top ten highest in the world, in spite of the overcrowding of nationwide prisons. With Florida at the top for execution convictions and landing in the top ten for lengthy sentencing, repeat offenders, drug crimes and homicides still run rampant in many Florida communities. In 2014, Florida legislators had some challenging decisions to make, and once again, they appear to be voting yes for even harsher punishment.

Hit and Run and DUI Convictions

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi claims that Florida traffic laws are faulty and that DUI offenders are scurrying away from accident scenes, making hit and runs a problem that needs to be addressed. Florida’s Highway Patrol leaders agree with the attorney general and moves are being made to further increase sentencing for hit and run offenders. Under the proposed bill scheduled to take affect this year, the minimum sentence for a hit and run would be the equivalent to the minimum sentence of DUI manslaughter which is four years in prison. Florida’s Highway Patrol states that three out of five fatalities were the result of hit and runs statewide in 2012.

Ongoing Surveillance for Sexual Predators

Another 2012 proposal calls for the ongoing surveillance of statewide sexual predators. Under the new proposals, police would have 24/7 access to surveillance of anyone convicted of a sex crime in the state of Florida. This surveillance system would work in conjunction with lengthier prison sentencing, a harsher screening process for release, and public access to information regarding local sex offenders. This particular proposal will take precedence over other bills in 2014, according to the accounts of local law makers.

Gun Ownership

A new bill proposed by Rep. Matt Gaetz would offer protection to individuals who are discriminated against by insurance companies for owning firearms. Any gun owner who feels their insurance rates were raised due to this form of discrimination would then have the right to sue insurance companies for abuse. This new proposal, in addition to Florida’s support of The Stand Your Ground Law does seem to set a conflicting tone of violence for a state that claims to be bent on justice.

According to The Department of Florida Law Enforcement, the statewide crime rate has decreased by 59% since 1992, which is a significant decline; however, the state is still second in the nation for violent crime and seventh for homicides. Could it be that the legislative sector is spending a great deal of time and money protecting gun owners and punishing drivers? As a whole, it is possible that the nation should be upgrading the overall prison system, rather than spending the majority of the budget establishing laws designed to lengthen sentencing. Educational programs in juvenile institutions could help prevent future criminal activity and reduce the need for harsher punishment.