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Florida - Time Served In Prison 1979 -1999

An Article By Terence T. Gorski
GORSKI-CENAPS Web Publications
www.tgorski.com
Published On: July, 1999          Updated On: August 27, 2001
© Terence T. Gorski, 2001

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Time Served by Criminals
Sentenced to Florida's Prisons:

The Impact of Punishment Policies from 1979 to 1999
Read it On the Web:  http://www.dc.state.fl.us/pub/timeserv/annual/index.html

A report by: Florida Department of Corrections
Michael W. Moore, Secretary

Prepared by: Bureau of Research and Data Analysis

July 1999

Table of Contents

Executive Summary

Introduction

Changes to Florida's Punishment Policy

Section 1: All Crimes

Section 2: Violent Crimes

Section 3: Property Crimes

Section 4: Drug Crimes

Executive Summary

Florida is tougher on criminals today than any time over the past 20 years. This report reveals data showing that criminals sentenced to prison today will serve significantly longer actual time incarcerated than in the past two decades. An analysis was conducted of 414,564 offenders sentenced to prison from FY1979-80 to FY1998-99. Florida has implemented several major changes in the way it sentences felony offenders to prison. Prior to the minimum 85% of sentence served policy, which began in 1995, a prison sentence had minimal relationship to the actual time criminals spent in prison. Parole, early prison release, and significant gaintime earnings resulted in substantially shorter periods of actual incarceration than the current punishment policy.

Introduction

This report presents a description of how the actual time served by various types of criminals sentenced to prison has changed in Florida from 1979 to 1999. Florida has implemented several major changes in the way in which it sentences felony offenders to prison over the past 20 years. The figures in this report are based on an analysis of 414,564 offenders sentenced to prison from FY1979-80 to FY1998-99.

It is important to note that the department routinely publishes figures reflecting actual time served for offenders released from prison. However, cohorts of prison releasees have been sentenced under many different sentencing policies. Therefore, this report examines offenders sentenced to prison to reflect the impact of punishment policies on actual prison time served.

The specific method of calculating time served, the population selected, and other measurement processes are detailed in the Methodology section.

Changes to Florida's Punishment Policy

The table below presents what Florida's sentencing policy, inmate gaintime, and prison release practices were from FY1979-80 to FY1998-99. Dramatic yet incremental changes in punishment practices have occurred over the past two decades. Florida's method of punishing serious criminals has been transformed from an indeterminate sentencing policy to a determinate policy. The indeterminate policy resulted in significant sentence reductions through parole board decisions. After parole was eliminated in October, 1983, prison sentences were reduced through statutorily mandated earned and unearned gaintime. From 1987 to 1994, additional sentence reductions occurred through early prison release resulting from a deficit of prison beds and court ordered capacity limits. In contrast, the determinate sentence policy involves no parole eligibility and no early prison release. Prison sentences handed out by Florida judges from FY1979-80 to FY1993-94 had minimal bearing on the actual prison term criminals served. In FY1995-96 to FY1998-99, the length of prison sentences are nearly equivalent to the length of time criminals will serve in prison.

Florida's Prison Sentencing Policy, 
Inmate Gaintime and Prison Release Practices: 
FY 1979-80 to FY 1998-99

Fiscal Year Prison Sentencing Policy Inmate Gaintime Prison Release Practices
1979-80
to
1982-83
Indeterminate sentencing through a parole system Up to 20 or 36 days per month served for Incentive or Work/ Extra Gaintime Parole or expiration of sentence
1983-84
to
1985-86
Determinate sentencing under 1983 Sentencing Guidelines Basic gaintime reduced sentences by one-third upon entering prison. Incentive gaintime up to 20 days per month served. Expiration of sentence
1986-87
to
1993-94
Determinate sentencing under 1983 Sentencing Guidelines Basic gaintime reduced sentences by one-third upon entering prison. Incentive gaintime up to 20 days per month served. Expiration of sentence and early prison release due to overcrowding
1994-95
to
1995-96
1994 Sentencing Guidelines Up to 20 or 25 days of incentive gaintime per month served Expiration of sentence
1995-96
to
1998-99
1995 Sentencing Guidelines and Criminal Punishment Code Incentive gaintime up to 10 days per month served, however, gaintime cannot cause inmate to serve below 85% of sentence Expiration of sentence

Section 1: All Crimes

Comparing actual prison time served for all offenders from FY1979-80 to FY1998-99 results in the following conclusions:

Offenders who have been sentenced to prison under the current minimum 85% of sentence served policy will, on average, serve a significantly longer period of time in prison than at any time over the past 20 years. The average prison sentence under this policy has resulted in 5.1 years of incarceration compared to 3.5 years under the parole system of the early 1980's and 2.3 years during the early prison release policy of the late 80's and early 90's (chart 1).

Offenders sentenced to prison in the latest fiscal year (1998-99) will serve longer prison terms than any year over the past two decades. In fact, actual time served has increased by 50.0% (3.6 years to 5.4 years) from FY1979-80 to FY1998-99 and a significant 217.6% (1.7 years to 5.4 years) from FY1988-89 to FY1998-99 (chart 2).

One of every ten offenders (9.8%) who have been sentenced under the current 85% policy will serve more than 10 years in prison compared to 4.2% under the parole system, 3.5% when early prison release existed, and 6.6% under the 1994 sentencing guidelines (chart 3).

Section 2: Violent Crimes

Violent offenders who have been sentenced to prison under the current minimum 85% of sentence served policy, on average, will serve a significantly longer period of time in prison than at any time over the past 20 years. The average time served under this policy has been 7.9 years of incarceration compared to 6.2 years under the parole system of the early 1980's and 4.8 years during the early prison release policy of the late 80's and early 90's (chart 5).

Violent offenders sentenced to prison in the latest fiscal year (1998-99) will serve longer prison terms than any year over the past two decades. In fact, actual time served has increased by 43.3% (6.0 years to 8.6 years) from FY1979-80 to FY1998-99 and a significant 145.7% (3.5 years to 8.6 years) from FY1987-88 to FY1998-99 (chart 6).

18.4% of the violent offenders sentenced under the current minimum 85% time served policy will serve more than 10 years in prison, compared to 10.1% under the parole system and 9.9% when early prison release existed (chart 7).

Murder and Manslaughter

Offenders who have been sentenced to prison for murder or manslaughter will serve an average of 19.6 years in prison under the minimum 85% of sentence served policy compared to 13.0 years under the old parole system and 12.5 years when early prison release existed (chart 8).

Murder and manslaughter offenders sentenced to prison in FY1998-99 will serve an average of 21.6 years, compared to 13.8 years in FY1979-80 and 9.8 years in FY1987-88 (chart 9).

Offenders convicted today of Second Degree Murder will serve much more time in prison today, 21.3 years, than any time over the past 20 years and they will serve significantly more time than the low of 6.8 years in FY1986-87 (chart 11).

Sexual Crimes

Sex offenders will serve more time in prison under the current minimum 85% of sentence served policy than under any other previous punishment policy. The average time served for sex offenders under the current minimum 85% of sentence served policy is 8.5 years compared to a low of 6.4 years under the 1983 sentencing guidelines (chart 12).

Sexual battery offenders, on average, served actual prison terms of 8.3 years in FY1988-89. In FY1998-99, these offenders will serve an average of 13.3 years, a 62.0% increase (chart 13).

Lewd acts on children resulted in actual prison terms of 2.2 years in FY1986-87. In FY1998-99, these offenders will serve an average of 5.6 years, a 154.5% increase (chart 14).

Robbery

Robbery offenders entering prison in FY1998-99 will serve an average of 8.2 years compared to a low of 2.1 years in FY1987-88 (chart 16).

Offenders convicted of armed robbery will serve more prison time today, 10.2 years, than any time over the past 20 years and they will serve significantly more time today than the low of 2.8 years in FY1987-88 (chart 17).

Other Violent Crimes

Offenders convicted of "Other Violent Crimes," which includes primarily aggravated assault and aggravated battery, entering prison in FY1998-99 will serve an average of 4.9 years incarcerated compared to a low of 1.3 years in FY1987-88 (chart 19).

Assault or Battery on Law Enforcement Officers

In FY1987-88, the average offender convicted of committing assault or battery on a law enforcement officer served less than one year in prison (0.7 years). In fiscal year 1998-99, these offenders who harm or make threats to harm police officers will serve 4.2 years in prison, a 500% increase (chart 20).

Section 3: Property Crimes

Property offenders who have been sentenced to prison under the current minimum 85% of sentence served policy will, on average, serve a significantly longer period of time in prison than at any time over the past 20 years.

The average prison sentence under this policy has resulted in 3.5 years of incarceration compared to 2.0 years under the parole system of the early 1980's and 1.4 years during the early prison release policy of the late 80's and early 90's (chart 21).

Property offenders sentenced to prison in the latest fiscal year (1998-99) will serve 3.9 years compared to 1.0 years in FY1988-89 (chart 22).

Burglary

Offenders who commit a burglary crime will serve significantly more time in prison today (5.0 years in FY1998-99) than at any time over the past 20 years. This current 5.0 years average time served for burglars is 316.7% higher than the low of 1.2 years in FY1987-88 (chart 24).

Armed burglars will serve an average of 8.3 years in prison under the minimum 85% of sentence served policy in FY1998-99 compared to an average of 2.6 in FY1988-89 when Florida was forced to invoke early prison release (chart 25).

A prison sentence for auto theft in FY1998-99 resulted in an average of 3.0 years of incarceration compared to less than 1.0 year in FY1987-88, a 200% increase (chart 27).

Section 4: Drug Crimes

Drug offenders who have been sentenced to prison under the current minimum 85% of sentence served policy will, on average, serve a significantly longer period of time in prison than at any time over the past 20 years. The average prison sentence under this policy has resulted in 3.0 years of incarceration compared to 1.7 years under the parole system of the early 1980's and 1.3 years during the early prison release policy of the late 80's and early 90's (chart 28).

Drug offenders will, on average, serve 3.2 years in prison if sentenced under the minimum 85% of sentence served policy in FY1998-99 compared to less than a year (0.8 years) during the early prison release policy in FY1988-89 (chart 29).

Drug traffickers served an average of 2.1 to 3.1 years in prison every year from FY1980-81 to FY1993-94. In contrast, drug traffickers sentenced under the minimum 85% time served policy in FY1998-99 will serve an average of 6.1 years in prison (chart 31).

 

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