Moving toward 'Politics of the Community.' (Speech by Florida Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay) (Miami)

By MacKay, Buddy | Corrections Today, April 1993 | Go to article overview

Moving toward 'Politics of the Community.' (Speech by Florida Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay) (Miami)


MacKay, Buddy, Corrections Today


Editor's note: The following is an edited version of the keynote address Florida Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay delivered at the Conference Jan. 12.

During the 1980s it was popular for legislators facing re-election to show they were tough on crime by passing minimum mandatory sentences for more and more crimes. As a result, we now have a system in our prisons that is very difficult to work with.

Like many other states, Florida operates under a court order. We have capacity limits, and to put another person in, we have to turn somebody out. The key to making our system work is that we have to ensure that the ones kept in are the violent and dangerous ones and those let out on controlled release don't pose a risk to society. That works fine until you try to superimpose mandatory sentences over it. We're now finding that the pool of people available to be released on controlled release is shrinking rapidly.

Florida Corrections Secretary Harry Singletary tells us we will reach gridlock by next October. So this is not a long-range problem; we have to deal with it directly, today.

We are proposing what we call a safe streets initiative. We know we have to build more beds. There's no question about it--this is a growth state. We know we have to modify the sentencing guidelines and make sense of minimum mandatory sentences within the context of the sentencing guidelines. And we know we have to put priority on community corrections, which provides alternatives. This will ensure that prison beds are available to the most dangerous, violent criminals. But all this does is buy us time. It doesn't solve the long-term problem. In the long run, we've got to focus on keeping young people out of prison.

The improper use of minimum mandatory sentencing for non-violent crimes is an example of what we have had in Florida over the past decade. I call it the "politics of the crowd." It is what people do with people they don't want to deal with. They build walls. They build walls around their homes to keep them out, and they build prison walls to keep them in. …

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