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Forging a Florida Correctional Research Coalition: Evaluating the Impact of Florida's Habitual Offender Law, Final Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 1999
155 pages
This report presents the methodology and findings of an in-depth assessment of the incapacitative effect of Florida's Habitual Offender (HO) statute.
Since its adoption in 1927, the Florida HO law has undergone many changes. The original HO law allowed for enhanced and minimum sentences for repeat felony offenders. The law was amended in 1971 to allow the court the discretion to impose harsher sentences on HOs for the protection of the public. In 1988 the Florida Legislature enacted an amendment to the HO law to re-establish enhanced sentences for offenders designated as habitual. These sentences were categorically exempt from the sentencing guidelines. This study assessed the impact of the HO law on crime rates over the past 17 years (1981-97). Using individual-level prison admissions data from the Florida Department of Corrections, a county-level measure of the extra amount of prison time imposed on HOs was constructed; and its lagged effect on crime was assessed by the use of a multiple time-series design. The study also examined the possibility that some "favorable effects" of HO sentencing were only immediate or short-term by including both HO admissions and HO incarceration rate variables in the crime models. Further, the study investigated the extent to which the effects of the HO law varied across county populations and variable configurations. The study findings generally do not support the hypothesis that selectively incarcerating offenders designated as "habitual" for extended periods of time reduces county-level crime rates. There were no consistent effects across crime types, varying model specifications, or samples. These findings were consistent with those of previous similar studies. 31 tables and 74 references

Date Published: June 1, 1999