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MEETING WITH GOVERNOR RICK SCOTT

Governor Rick Scott meets with Forgotten Majority
Tuesday, August 7, 2012  3:30 pm

Right to left:  Florida Governor Rick Scott
Judy Thompson, Forgotten Majority
Lawrence Stewart, Next Level Outreach

Also present at the meeting was Bonnie Rogers, Coordinator, Office of Policy and Budget and Bo Winokaur,
Assistant General Council.

The meeting centered on the Mutual Participation Program Act (MPPA), F.S. 947.135, also commonly referred to as “Contract Parole.”  This statute was enacted in 1976 and was made available to all youthful offenders and  non-violent parole eligible inmates who earned parole through setting and accomplishing measurable program objectives inclusive of institutional conduct, program participation,   educational and vocational accomplishments,   personal achievements, support of family/friends, financial means,  employability and a total commitment to the change process.

The Mutual Participation Program allows the parolee, who has already served a reasonable portion of his/her sentence and has shown evidence of self-reform to bring to the table a realistic plan setting forth the terms and conditions of his confinement, program participation and work-release, with the Parole Commission and the Department Of Corrections as stakeholders.  Once the plan is approved, the parolee’s release date is set no later  than three years past the interview date and the date the contract is signed.   The release date is included in the contract.  Contract Parole will require the parolee to be accountable before and after release and will promote being responsible for his/her actions.  Expansion of the MPPA will also put jobs and money back into the state to meet the need for additional personnel to supervise parole and monitoring services.  The associated fees, paid by the parolee, will contribute to the reduction of the economic drain.   Mass incarceration would no longer tarnish the Sunshine State and a fiscal recovery would be imminent.

Unfortunately,  the MPPA currently excludes offenders sentenced after 1983, that are not parole eligible as well as parole eligible inmates that were sentenced as  habitual offenders, even if their offenses were minor and even if they’ve served 3, 4 or 5 decades in prison.   Statute 947.135 must be amended to change the eligibility criteria which shuts out 97,000 inmates.    We propose that inmates who are dangerous and have been convicted for violent habitual felony offenses, be excluded from parole privilege.   Amending MPPA  would save the state a minimum of $184,360,000 for every 10,000 inmates released,  this conservative estimate constitutes 10% of the prison population and would put Florida in the league with those states that have implement smart justice reforms to dramatically reduce their prison growth.

A January 2012 poll released by Florida TaxWatch, Associated Industries and Right on Crime asked questions about criminal justice reforms to 800 registered Republicans in Florida who identified themselves as “likely voters.” 84% of respondents identified themselves as “conservative, and 60% were age 55 or over.  The poll shows Floridians overwhelmingly favor criminal justice reforms that save taxpayers money. When more than four out of five self-identified conservative voters say they want major changes that send fewer nonviolent offenders to prison, lawmakers should take note. This poll proves that common sense reform is not only good policy, but good politics.  Among the poll results, 84 percent support major changes in the system that will send fewer nonviolent offenders to prison and instead look to more cost-effective alternatives, and 72 percent agree that fewer people convicted of nonviolent crimes should be sent to prison and the savings should be directed to creating a stronger probation and parole system.  http://www.famm.org/newsandinformation/PressReleases/PollShowsFloridiansFavorJusticeReform.aspx

Governor Rick Scott made a promise early on to meet with Forgotten Majority and discuss Parole – he kept that promise.  Thank you Governor Scott!  We presented the Governor with over 10,000 petitions supporting the Reinstatement of Parole which he graciously accepted.  He listened attentively as the benefits of Contract Parole were presented and was very receptive to our message.  Forgotten Majority views this meeting as the beginning of several major changes in our Correctional system that will impact over 100,000 Florida families.

Please take this moment and let your lawmakers know that you support Contract Parole for inmates who have matured and put wrong living aside.  We are optimistic that our legislators will transition to  initiatives that promote Smart Justice.  Florida needs forward-looking criminal justice reform now to help address the budget shortfall in the short-term and to create a more reasonable, efficient, and effective justice system in the long term.

A special thank you to everyone that signed the petition on-line as well as hard copy.   Let’s not stop spreading the word and promoting the petition until we have established a strong united front statewide that projects a voice so powerful that it cannot be ignored.

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