Florida Prison Project WHo are the inmates?

According to the Florida Department of Corrections there are 99,119 inmates present in the Florida prison system as of June 30, 2016. This is an outstanding number and while the department says it is down by 0.9% from 2015 it is indicative of a deeper problem. However, underneath the numbers are real people and understanding the demographics of who the inmates are will help resolve the issue of why there are so many inmates in the Florida prison system.

According to the Florida Department of Corrections, 93.1% of inmates are males while only 6.9% of the population are females. In a report from the fiscal year 2014-2015 the department of corrections noted that 47.5% of the inmates were white while 48% were black and 4.5% were of a different race. While there is much discussion of the disparity on the percentage of whites and blacks that are in the prison system the actual number inside the system is equal. There is a huge difference between the amount of females and males in the prison system but the distribution of black versus white inmates appears to be somewhat equal.

However, while the amount of blacks and whites in the prison system may appear to look equal, compared to the actual population of blacks in Florida they are overrepresented. For example, 75% of the population of Florida is white while only 15% are black. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, whites are underrepresented in the incarcerated population of floridians while blacks are overrepresented.

Another characteristic of the inmate population is the age at which citizens are incarcerated. In a report on the fiscal year 2014-2015 the department of corrections reported that 35.6% of the inmate population is aged 25-34. The second largest age group represented were inmates aged 35-49 at 30.4%. There is also a substantial elderly population.

The Florida Statute 944.02 defines elderly inmates as, “prisoners age 50 or older in a state correctional institution or facility operated by the Department of Corrections.” The department’s report stated that as of June, 30th 2015 elderly inmates represented 21.6% of the total inmate population. 94.4% of these inmates were male while 5.6% were female. The majority of the inmates were serving time for charges of sex offenses, murder/manslaughter, or drug offenses. Elderly inmates also require more care. For example, they accounted for half of all episodes of outside care and inpatient hospital days.

Youthful offenders made up less than 2% of the inmate population in 2016. According to the FDOC,

“Section 958.04, F.S., authorizes the court to sentence as a youthful offender any person who is at least 18 years of age or who has been transferred for prosecution to the criminal division of the circuit court pursuant to chapter 985, who is found guilty of or who has tendered, and the court has accepted, a plea of nolo contendere or guilty to a crime that is, under the laws of this state, a felony if the offender is younger than 21 years of age at the time sentence is imposed, who has not previously been classified as a youthful offender under provisions of this act; and who has not been found guilty of a capital or life felony. Section 958.11, F.S., authorizes the Department to classify as a youthful offender any person, who is at least 18 years of age or who has been transferred for prosecution to the criminal division of the circuit court pursuant to chapter 985, who has not previously been classified as a youthful offender under provisions of this act, who has not been found guilty of a capital or life felony, whose age does not exceed 24 years; and whose total length of sentence does not exceed 10 years.”

It is unclear as to which crimes land more of these youthful offenders in prison. It is also unclear about the demographics of these youthful offenders.

According to the FDOC website, 3,605 females were put in prison during fiscal year 2015-2016. By the end of 2016, 6,756 females were incarcerated overall. 31.2% of women were incarcerated for drug offenses. Most of these women are between 25 and 34 years-old at the time of conviction. 69.9% of the women incarcerated are first time offenders.

Broward county takes the lead for having admitted the most offenders in fiscal year 2015-2016.

There are five major institutions, including one for youthful offenders and one for female inmates. Inmates are evaluated and placed in a facility based on their needs and security level. The main women's facility in the state, Lowell Correctional Institution in Lowell, FL is in fact home to the four women on Florida’s death row and noted as the largest women’s prison in the nation. A Miami Herald investigation done in 2015 found that some women at this specific facility were being treated like prostitutes. Officers would force inmates into sexual favors. It is a third-degree felony for an officer to be involved in sexual relations with an inmate.

As of today, there are currently 383 inmates on Death Row. The 379 male death row inmates are housed at Union Correctional Institution in Raiford, FL or at Florida State Prison in Starke, FL. Four female death row inmates are housed at Lowell Annex in Lowell, FL.

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