Invoking the murders of youngsters Carlie Brucia and Jessica Lunsford, Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist and Republican legislators want to get tough on violent felons who violate their probations in a way that could cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars for thousands of new prison beds, the Miami Herald reports. The proposal would require jail time for any felon with a violent past who violates probation — even for “technical” violations such as failing to report to a probation officer. The violator would be held without bail until a judge holds a hearing to determine whether the felon poses a danger to the community. The bill — dubbed the “anti-murder” legislation — forces state judges to document their reasons for releasing violent probation violators, and increases the sentencing guidelines for probation violations.
Crist, expected to run for governor next year, said the legislation could have prevented three high-profile crimes that police have tied to felons on probation. One legislative study found that more than 4,600 Florida felons with violent records were allowed to continue probation last year after a violation. Critics say the law is unnecessary, that in practice most violent felons rarely get a second chance from a judge if they violate the terms of their release — especially if they commit a new crime. A Florida State University study says the new probation rules would cost about $355 million over the next five years. A legislative study said the state would have to build three or four new prisons to house an additional 7,100 inmates in the next five years — costing $630 million by 2010.