Florida prisons are seeing the fewest number of inmates since 2005, a likely temporary situation resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
Just less than 85,000 inmates were in state prisons in September, according to Florida Department of Corrections data reviewed by the Orlando Sentinel. The total was down 12 percent, compared to the same time last year, and marked the first time the incarcerated population dipped below 88,000 in 15 years.
The decline appears to be the result of a downturn in new inmate intakes during the pandemic. Inmates who have served their time continue to be released according to schedule.
The number of incoming inmates processed in Florida state prisons has dropped by roughly 60 percent, the Sentinel reports. Nearly 7,000 inmates were processed every three months before the pandemic, but the total fell to as few as 1,900 from April to June.
The FDC initially paused all inmate transfers from local jails to state prisons when the pandemic began in March. Court closures and trial delays also created a backlog of people charged with crimes, like drug, gun and sex offenses, waiting for their cases to be heard before a judge or jury.
The Sunshine State is home to the third-largest state prison population in the country. The FDC, which does not run separate federal prisons in Florida, typically reports some 95,000 to 100,000 inmates at any given time, according to the Sentinel.
People who have been charged with a crime are typically released on bond or held in local jails while they await trial.
Although Gov. Ron DeSantis has lifted stay at home orders and courts across the state are reopening, the pandemic continues. Spiking infection rates have caused concern about a potential additional wave of Covid-19.
Courts in Escambia and Santa Rosa County, for example, were recently forced to once again put all trials on hold just one week after resuming trials for the first time during the pandemic.
“I suspect that we will continue to be in this type of on-and-off-again holding pattern until we get a vaccine or the Florida Supreme Court changes the guidelines, which I don’t anticipate happening,” First Circuit Chief Judge John Miller told the Pensacola News Journal.
Florida officials have so far declined calls to release some inmates early to space out prisons in an effort to combat the spread of the virus behind bars.
More than 140 state prison inmates have died as a result of the virus, along with at least four corrections staffers, the Sentinel reports. Nearly 156,000 inmates across the country have been infected, a number that continues to tick up, according to the nonprofit criminal justice news outlet the Marshall Project.
Although court activity and inmate processing are significantly down, Florida law enforcement officers and prosecutors are continuing to go after accused criminal offenders. That includes people suspected of a wide range of sex offenses.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in early October announced the arrests of 22 men during a four-day sting operation called “Operation Social Bust.” The investigation focused on alleged sexual predators posing as young children on popular social media sites.
“We will continue to run these covert operations and target sexual predators who lurk online,” Sheriff Chad Chronister said at a news conference announcing the busts.
Sex offenses are serious criminal charges that can come with significant and life-changing consequences for anyone accused of these crimes. They often come with long stretches of time in prison and steep fines, as well as the social stigma that can alienate friends and family and make it difficult to find and keep a job.
Child pornography charges, for example, are felony offenses that can mean serious prison time. Even after a person convicted on these charges is released from prison, he or she will likely be required to register as a sex offender.
That is why it is imperative that a person charged with a sex crime seek the counsel of an experienced Fort Lauderdale child pornography lawyer.
Anyone who has been charged with child pornography or other sex crimes in Florida has the right to defend themselves in court. These cases can raise a number of difficult legal and factual questions, making it vital to get a seasoned attorney in your corner as soon as possible.
It is important to understand that the burden is at all times on prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the specific crime with which you have been charged. That includes intent, or that you knowingly possessed the illicit material. The “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard is a higher bar than simply proving that a person “probably” or even “more likely than not” committed the offense.
Common questions in these cases include the actual age of the person depicted in the pornographic material, as well as potential entrapment. Florida law provides a full defense for entrapment, which happens when a police officer or informant tries to induce someone into committing a crime in certain situations.
A Fort Lauderdale child pornography lawyer at Whittel and Melton can help you understand your rights and options while building the strongest possible defense.
If you or a loved one has been charged with or is suspected of child pornography or other sex crime in Florida, it is important to have an experienced attorney in your corner.
At Whittel & Melton our Florida sex crime attorneys represent clients throughout the Sunshine State who have been charged with a wide variety of offenses, including child pornography, sexual assault, rape, internet solicitation, and offenses involving victims who are minors. We work tirelessly to fight these charges head-on in order to get charges dropped or reduced whenever possible.
Our firm handles cases throughout the state, including in Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, and Pensacola. Contact us online or call (866) 608-5529 for a free evaluation with a Fort Lauderdale pornography lawyer.
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