Florida’s first mandatory minimums law created the crimes of trafficking in illegal drugs (cocaine and cannabis). The law also provided mandatory minimum penalties and additional fines for each of the crimes created.
Black people are more likely to be arrested and prosecuted for these crimes, despite studies showing they are about equally likely as white people to use or sell drugs. Mandatory minimum laws continued the legacy of disproportionately incarcerating Black people and drastically changed the criminal justice landscape. Because these policies essentially removed the discretionary authority of judges, sentences got considerably longer. This has led to the exponential increase of Florida’s overall prison population, particularly its elderly population. The increase of elderly incarcerated people has heightened the demands for and costs of health care. Health care costs have severely strained the Department of Corrections’ budget, leading to the $28-million deficit the department experienced in 2018.
Florida currently has at least 108 mandatory minimum laws. Repealing mandatory minimum laws would significantly transform the justice system.