Manatee County Sheriff leads new effort to keep law requiring some inmates to serve 85 percent of their sentence

New Research to Prove "Truth in Sentencing" Success

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells is leading a new effort to keep "Truth in Sentencing” as is. It’s a Florida law that requires that inmates in prison serve at least 85 percent of their sentence.

Legislators are considering reducing that to 65 percent. At the end of January, the Florida Sheriff’s Association, led by Sheriff Wells, launched a new research institute to stop them.

Florida is one of 18 states in addition to the District of Columbia that requires prisoners to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence, but Sheriff Wells said there’s still a lot of misinformation out there about this law. He wants to remind the community that it’s reserved only for felons who are continually committing serious and violent crimes.

“I took two rounds in my right arm, one round in my chest,” said Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly.

One might consider it a miracle. Sheriff Rick Staly was shot three times while trying to save another deputies life and lives to tell the story.

“Fortunately it was stopped by a protective vest, or you and I would not be talking," said Sheriff Staly.

Two years later, the suspect went to trial, was found guilty of attempted first degree murder and sentenced to 20 years in Florida’s Department of Corrections.

“He served eight years, which was about 40 percent of the 20 year sentence,” said Sheriff Staly.

If that wasn’t frustrating enough, the suspect went on to commit several more crimes when he was released.

Cases like these are what Sheriff Staly and Sheriff Wells call a perfect example of why Florida’s Truth in Sentencing law was passed in the first place.

“Every time that we continue to talk about letting a prisoner out, there’s a victim out there that’s been traumatized and that may have had something terrible happen to them and we don’t ever discus that," said Sheriff Wells.

Sheriff Wells is banding together with more than 30 Florida sheriffs to launch a research institute that shows, statistically, why reducing these prison terms this would harm our communities.

“Ninety-five percent of the prisoners, right now, currently, in the Department of Corrections are repeat offenders," said Sheriff Wells. "They’ve already been there once and they’re back again.”

Sheriff Wells said since Truth in Sentencing was enacted, Florida has seen a 67 percent decline in the rate of crimes. Statistics, he adds, that are reflected right here in Manatee County.

To read the full Truth in Sentencing report, click here.

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