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Florida Prisoners Must Serve 85 Percent of Sentences

June 15, 1995

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Inmates in Florida must serve at least 85 percent of their sentences under legislation that became law Wednesday without Gov. Lawton Chiles’ signature.

``It means we’re going to have a lot fewer victims of crime. We’re actually going to be punishing the guilty again,″ said Kathleen Finnegan, a former prosecutor and executive director of the group Stop Turning Out Prisoners.

The law, originally proposed as an amendment to the state constitution, failed to make the ballot last year but gained the support of many lawmakers. Chiles opposed it, saying he was in favor of an 85 percent law for violent and repeat offenders but not everyone.

Supporters expressed gratitude that he didn’t veto the measure, which will apply to all offenses committed on or after Oct. 1.

Other crime-fighting measures signed by the governor strengthen the state’s sentencing guidelines, expand its prison system’s legal capacity and impose mandatory terms for repeat offenders convicted of a fourth violent crime.

The measures are expected to cost more than $2 billion over the next five years and double the 60,000-inmate population.

STOP had collected 300,000 of the 430,000 signatures needed to get the measure on the ballot last year when the state Supreme Court threw it out as misleading.

Supporters have collected another 100,000 signatures for next year’s election, and Finnegan said the drive to put the measure in the state constitution will continue.

The 35-year-old former prosecutor and a friend were abducted and robbed by a career criminal on early release in 1988. Her friend was killed and Finnegan was wounded.

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