Florida Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders have pledged to offset the state's nearly $4 billion budget shortfall with cuts to the prison system. With that in mind, says the Miami Herald, lawmakers heard testimony yesterday from Texas state Rep. Jerry Madden, who sponsored prison reform legislation. The message: Save money by keeping people out of prison with programs that address drug addiction, alcoholism, and mental illness.
Madden said prisoners can largely be divided into three categories: Those who will never return, those who are guaranteed to return, and those who won't return if they are enrolled in the right programs. It's the third category that gives you the most bang for your buck, he said, so it's worth it to invest in drug and alcohol treatment programs. “This is being tough on crime. It's tougher for a drug guy to take drug treatment than to spend a year and a day in jail,” Madden said. “If someone's a drug addict, break their habit.” Several committee members asked if such measures prompt criticism of being soft on crime. Sen. Paula Dockery said Florida have considered some of Madden's suggestions, but “it's politically difficult to do.” Madden said that shouldn't be the case.