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Rick Scott, Governor
Florida Department of Corrections, Secretary Michael D. Crews

Florida Department of Corrections
Timothy H. Cannon, Interim Secretary

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 2004. Florida has implemented several major changes in the way in which it sentences felony offenders to prison over the past 25 years. The figures in this report are based on an analysis of 527,762 offenders sentenced to prison from July 1, 1979 to June 30, 2004.

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 July 1, 1979 to June 30, 2004. 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. Since FY1995-96, the percentages of prison sentences served and expected to serve have increased dramatically.

Florida's Prison Sentencing Policy, Inmate Gaintime and Prison Release Practices: July 1, 1979 to June 30, 2004
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
2003-04
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