As they ready their city for the Super Bowl in January, lawmakers from Jacksonville and the sheriff are waiting for the governor to sign a bill they blitzed through the Legislature that requires mandatory jail time for habitual petty offenders, some of whom have haunted downtown for years. The proposal, which reached Gov. Jeb Bush’s desk Wednesday and awaits his signature or veto, would require nearly anyone in the state convicted of five misdemeanors in a 12-month period to spend six months in jail or a residential treatment facility.
Advocates for the homeless and South Florida judges say they fear that’s a back-door way of locking up the downtrodden — at great expense to state and county taxpayers, who would have to spend more for jail and treatment beds. And they say the timing of the bill is suspicious. ”It’s basically window washers and homeless people we’re talking about,” said a state representative from Miami Beach. “Who else is going to get five misdemeanors in a year? It’s the most powerless, pathetic members of our society. And it’s being done because they want to clean up Jacksonville for the Super Bowl.”