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Arrests are down, but Florida prisons are still full

Florida is on track to have a historically low number of reported crimes -- the lowest in 47 years.

So, why are the prisons still so full?

While reports of crime have generally decreased in the state, the overall number of arrests hasn't fallen at the same rate. In addition, there has actually been a rise in the number of people being incarcerated for low-level drug crimes, like possession. The problem is significant enough that state economists say that there's not much likelihood that Florida will be able to reduce its multibillion-dollar corrections budget.

Here are some significant facts pulled from the 2018 Semi-Annual Uniform Crime Report:

  • The overall number of crimes inside the state dropped 8 percent during the first half of the year.
  • Violent crimes went down by 6.8 percent, even though murders and rapes increased in both January and July compared to 2017.
  • The rate of nonviolent crimes fell 8.2 percent.
  • Arrests were down 2 percent in the first half of 2018, which was in addition to the 2 percent decrease seen in 2017.
  • For the last 8 years in a row, the number of arrests has been on the decline.
  • Jail terms for drug crimes are on the rise, however, climbing 7 percent in 2018 from the same period the year before.
  • There has been a 7 percent increase in first-time prison sentences, particularly among those convicted for possession.

In addition to the above factors, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement indicates that the average drug crime sentence includes about three years of incarceration.

Experts say that merely reclassifying the majority of simple drug possession crimes as misdemeanors -- instead of felonies -- could help Florida reduce its prison population by 3 percent in a five-year period. That would be a tremendous financial benefit to the state, not to mention provide relief to a lot of people who spend far too much time in jail simply because they are suffering from an addiction and get caught with drugs.

If you've been arrested for drug possession, an attorney can protect your rights and make sure that you receive fair treatment.

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