Type of Document Dissertation Author Pate, Kerensa N. Author's Email Address firstname.lastname@example.org URN etd-04122010-152859 Title Florida's Truth in Sentencing Effectiveness on Recidivism Rates Degree Doctor of Philosophy Department Criminology and Criminal Justice, School of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Thomas Blomberg Committee Chair William Bales Committee Member Joyce Carbonell University Representative Keywords
Date of Defense 2010-04-01 Availability unrestricted AbstractSpohn and Holleran (2002) have stated that “little evidence exists that the crime control polices pursued during the past 20 years have produced a predicted reduction in crime (p. 336).” This sentiment has been voice by many researchers for the last 30 years. As early as 1973, the National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals, concluded that “the prison, the reformatory and the jail have achieved only a shocking record of failure (p. 358),” and recommended that “no new institutions for adults should be built” (p. 358). Notably absent from the literature are studies that examine the effectiveness of sentencing policies that incarcerate offenders with their effectiveness to reduce recidivism. This study responds to this void in the prior literature on incarceration and recidivism.
The purpose of this study is to explore the effectiveness of Florida’s Minimum 85% Sentence Served Law on recidivism rates. Specifically, what is the effect of the 85% law on the probability of recidivism among released inmates and does the effect vary across different demographic characteristics, offense categories or prior recidivism events? The major findings are that sentencing offenders to serve at least 85% of their court-imposed sentence significantly reduces the probability of recidivism regardless of the time served incarcerated. It was found that the 85% law reduces the likelihood of recidivism among violent and drug offenders. Moreover, when evaluating the effectiveness of the 85% law across different types of offender demographic characteristics it was found that the effect of the 85% law on recidivism was statistically greater for younger than older offenders, males than females and blacks than whites. However, the 85% law had an equivalent effect on recidivism for Hispanic’s and non-Hispanics. Finally, the effect of 85% law in reducing recidivism is greater for those with more prior recidivism events.
The findings from this study lend support that punishment certainty may explain the consistent impact of the 85% law on recidivism rates. Since the length of sentence and numerous known recidivism factors were controlled for, certainty of punishment may explain the findings. After serving 85% of their court imposed sentence some people may reason that the cost-benefit calculation of the consequence of doing another 85% of a sentence is too costly.
While the 85% law has been shown to be an effective sentencing policy, as shown by the reduction in recidivism, it has not been determined what it is about the policy that reduces the likelihood of recidivism. However, these findings do suggest that states contemplating a move towards a more determinate sentencing strategy will not necessarily experience increased prison populations and the associated increase in correctional expenditures. The differential effects presented in this study suggest policymakers could change sentencing policies to those it has the biggest impact (i.e., age 20 to 40 year olds, those with prior recidivism events and drug or violent offenses). This would potentially reduce the growing impact on the prison system while maintaining public safety.
Future studies should focus on the 85% laws theoretical underpinnings, cost-effectiveness, impact on crime rates, effect on ex-offender behavior and if the results found in this study can be replicated in other states.
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