The “Safe Streets Initiative,” Florida’s habitual violent felony offender law, repealed provisional release programs, eliminated basic gain time (the opportunity for people in prison to earn a reduction in their overall sentence), and amended sentencing laws across the board.
Amended sentencing laws raised the potential ceiling for punishment and increased the sentencing lengths for certain offenses. Gain time is the opportunity for people in prison to earn a reduction in their overall sentence, and provisional release programs were methods through which incarcerated people could be released on specified conditions, such as having a terminal illness. Black people are over-represented in Florida’s prisons; consequently, taking away those opportunities hurt Black Floridians the most—but impacted Floridians of every race and every corner of the state.
The habitual violent felony law allowed judges to increase criminal sentences for those who have had two or more separate criminal convictions for violent crimes. The goal was to combat re-offenses; however, the immediate impact of this policy was an increase in incarceration rates. Many factors contributed to this outcome, including the over-criminalization of drug offenses and the lack of investment in rehabilitative resources in prison and in the community.