In getting rid of “emergency release” procedures in 1995, Florida reduced what constituted “lawful capacity” and eliminated the emergency powers the governor previously had to release inmates due to overcrowding.
Florida continued to strengthen its commitment to “the war on drugs” and enacted four laws in the span of 12 years: (1) getting rid of parole, (2) eliminating emergency release, (3) adding “three-strikes laws,” and (4) enacting the habitual felony offender law. These measures, which continue to have a crippling effect on Florida’s correctional systems today, increased the number of prisoners coming in the front door. They also closed the backdoor for those looking for a way out through rehabilitative activities and those who are elderly or medically incapacitated, which has led to dangerously overcrowded conditions and increased costs due to health care needs.
Elimination of the emergency release procedures means that Florida currently does not have any means for the release of elderly prisoners. Medical release is only likely for those who are permanently incapacitated or facing death.
Policy solutions that would help to alleviate some of the effects of war-on-drug era laws include: allowing incarcerated people to earn time off their sentences; eliminating some of the mandatory minimum sentencing laws and applying changes retroactively; and increasing the state investment in rehabilitative programs.