Florida Changes Harsh Sentencing Law, Too Late for Many Inmates


Joanna Andreasson

In 1999, the state of Florida reinstated strict mandatory minimum sentences to crack down on opioid abuse. Thereafter, illegally possessing just 28 oxycodone pills could put a person away for no less than 15 years on a trafficking charge. The effort has been an abject failure.

In 2014, the Florida legislature tweaked the law in response to concerns that the tough sentences were mostly ensnaring low-level offenders. It now takes roughly 50 oxycodone pills to trigger a 15-year mandatory minimum.

But the reform was not retroactive. As a result, hundreds of inmates who were sentenced before the changes are serving far more time than they should be, and the state Department of Corrections is saddled with an aging prison population.