Florida PRR Families United was started in 2019 as a way to bring awareness to the egregiousness of the PRR (Prison Releasee Reoffender) law, Florida statute 775.082(9)(a)1. F.P.F.U. advocates to retroactively amend and/or abolish PRR due to the disproportionality of sentencing. Our hope is to reach every person that has a loved one sentenced as PRR so we can stand together, united with one voice.
You will find a comprehensive report under the “PRR Brief” tab which details the history of how this law came to be passed (without the Governor’s signature), the various amendments the law has undergone since, and many cases highlighting the disproportionate sentences individuals receive simply because they had been in prison one time within 3 years of their most current qualifying offense. To summarize what we mean by disproportionate sentencing, here is a summary of the issues including, but not limited to, the following:
- The State Attorney alone, not the judge or a jury, determines who they will seek the PRR designation for. State Attorneys may deviate from designating someone as PRR if there are “extenuating circumstances,” however there is only one defining example of these circumstances under the statute, so the State Attorney gets to define those circumstances. For example, the defining example in the statute is if the victim does not agree with the PRR designation, however there are many individuals whose victim(s) did not want the designation, or the determined prison sentence, yet the State Attorney designated the individual as PRR anyway. A state attorney in one district may feel a judge who is unsympathetic to law enforcement in a case where the main witness is a police officer is an “extenuating circumstance,” but another SA in a different district may not.
- Unlike a majority of the prison population which is eligible for 85% gain time, anyone sentenced as a PRR must serve 100% of their sentence. There are many who might find this quite acceptable, yet gain time not only encourages good behavior, but it also encourages participation in educational and workforce training programs which have been proven to benefit reentry and reduce recidivism. Although the goal of incarceration in Florida is punishment, we feel that for the sake of victims of crime and overall public safety, rehabilitation should be the main goal as a majority of individuals will be released one day.
- Although the title, and original intent, indicates the law is for people who have been released from prison, in actuality an individual does not have to have stepped foot in a prison to qualify as a PRR. For example, if someone receives a prison sentence of one or two years but serves that time in a county jail, then within 3 years of being released from that sentence commits one of the qualifying offenses under PRR, they still qualify as a PRR. This was actually challenged in the courts as prior to 2019 the statute clearly did not include individuals who had spent their time in a county jail. One case made it to the Florida Supreme Court, State v. Lewars SC17-1002, which was decided on December 13, 2018. The Court decided in favor of Lewars, and although he received the same sentence at his resentencing the PRR designation had to be taken off. Interestingly, on 4/11/2019, just a little over 3 months after the Lewars decision, Representative Chris Sprowls (former prosecutor) added a provision in HB 7125 which now included individuals released from a county detention facility within 3 years as qualifying as a PRR.
- An individual who had previously been sentenced to prison and commits a PRR qualifying offense within 2 years and 364 days will receive the statutory maximum sentence. An individual who had previously been sentenced to prison and commits the same PRR qualifying offense within 3 years and 1 day will be sentenced under the usual guidelines and the court will have discretion at sentencing. These types of sentencing schemes are highly disproportionate when you realize that one individual who committed an armed robbery within 3 years of being sentenced to prison will receive a life sentence, and an individual who committed an armed robbery just 1 day later could receive substantially less time, even if they had received a prior prison sentence, or sentences.
- Individuals who were released from their prior prison sentence before the PRR law was enacted were still qualified as PRR if their qualifying offense was within 3 years.
- By law, the State does not have to notify an individual that they will be seeking PRR designation. Although many state attorney offices do notify, there are some that do not, or some that do not mention PRR designation until sentencing, which renders the defendant the inability to properly prepare his/her defense. By contrast, with the habitual offender laws under 775.084 the State must notify defendants of a habitual offender designation and the court holds a separate hearing to determine if the defendant qualifies as a habitual offender, this so that the defendant may prepare a proper defense. This does not occur under PRR.
- Although the legislature indicated in the original version of the PRR bill that it was being utilized to punish those who “continue” to commit “violent” crimes, the prior qualifying prison sentence does not have to be a violent crime. For example, a prior prison sentence of 1 year and 1 day for the manufacture/sale/distribution of marijuana, a non-violent offense, would qualify an individual as PRR if they then committed a qualifying statutory offense within 3 years.
- Although the legislature indicated the PRR was being utilized for habitual offenders “who continue to prey on society,” by its very definition the PRR is not a habitual offender law since it does not take into account the number nor type of prior offenses; it simply relies on that one prior prison sentence and the most recent qualifying offense; hence, 2 strikes. Even if an individual did have felonies prior to their qualifying prison sentence, the PRR does not take those into consideration. If it did, then the individual would fall under the habitual offender statute, or the usual guidelines would need to be used which utilizes a point system and includes prior offenses in the calculation, but PRR’s are not sentenced utilizing this point system.
It is the disproportionality of PRR sentencing, as we’ve clearly shown here, that makes this law so egregious, and why we feel it needs to be repealed/amended, and that these changes need to be done retroactively. We feel discretion should be given back to the court where it belongs. It is the function of the judge’s education, knowledge and experience to render a sentence of time which fits each crime, but the PRR law renders a judge’s function as completely unnecessary. This law makes longer sentences mandatory, sentences which would be substantially less, but more proportionate, under the usual guidelines, and these unnecessarily lengthy sentences do nothing but cost Florida taxpayers millions of dollars every year, monies which could be spent elsewhere.
Thank you for your interest in our cause. If you have any questions, please see the Frequently Asked Questions tab, or contact us.