State prison closings are legacy of wrong guess - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

State prison closings are legacy of wrong guess

TALLAHASSEE, FL (AP) -- When Florida's prison system announced it was closing 11 facilities, it flew in the face of conventional wisdom that the state's prison population was high and rising.

If there's room to spare, where have all the prisoners gone?

The short answer is that they never arrived, at least not in the numbers expected.

Policymakers 20 years ago, extrapolating on then-current crime trends, expected an explosion of offenders and started building prisons. In particular, the early data suggested the rise of "superpredators," a wave of juvenile delinquents that would flood the criminal justice system in the early 2000s.

The wave, however, never happened and crime rates have fallen since 1991. Florida now has excess prison room, about 116,000 beds for 102,000 inmates -- a number that's basically been flat for three years.

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