Like most states, Florida is a little strapped for cash. Unlike other states, Florida’s governor has determined that a relatively inexpensive Commission tasked with identifying wrongful conditions is a good place to start cutting. This week, Governor Rick Scott put the brakes on the state’s Innocence Commission. This despite it only costing $200,000 per year.

From Radley Balko over at The Agitator:

This would be the state that has seen 12 DNA exonerations since the onset of DNA testing, and 23 exonerations of death row inmates since 1973. The Innocence Commission was set up in response to those cases, as well as the particularly outrageous exoneration cases in which four men were convicted of rape based on the junk science testimony of quack police dog handler John Preston.

I suppose everyone thinks his own pet issues deserve government funding. So let’s set aside the human costs, and put this in purely monetary terms. The average wrongful conviction costs taxpayers about $2 million. (I don’t know of any national studies, but several state studies of the total cost of DNA exonerations in those states arrive at about $2 million.) That figure only covers the average costs of trying, imprisoning, exonerating, and compensating the person who was wrongly convicted. It doesn’t include the costs associated with any additional crimes the real perpetrator may go on to commit, or the costs of resuming the investigation to find him, and then to arrest, try, and convict him.

So at minimum, if this commission’s recommendations prevent a single wrongful conviction, the commission funds itself for 10 years.

And lest you think Scott defunding the Innocence Commission is all about his economic principles and not just misguided tough-on-crime idiocy, consider Florida HB 177. The bill would have allowed for early release of non-violent drug offenders who successfully complete a prison treatment program. It would have saved the state millions in incarceration costs. It passed the Florida legislature by a combined vote of 152-4.

Scott vetoed it.

© 2012, Elizabeth Renter. All rights reserved.

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