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Public Records Suit Filed Against Florida DOC To Obtain Formula Used To Compute Sentences

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida has filed a second public records lawsuit against the state’s Department of Corrections (DOC) to obtain the formulas used to calculate a prisoner’s release date. The first resulted in information supplied, as well as several case studies, but no formulas. The DOC argued that it cannot release such information without compromising the physical security of DOC buildings.

Overdetention has become a problem endemic to America’s prison systems. Lawsuits and controversies have arisen from several states due to overdetention including Alaska, California, Washington, Hawaii, Washington D.C. and Massachusetts. Louisiana’s prison system held one individual 960 days (over three years) past his release date. Arizona DOC discovered a bug in their program that was keeping hundreds in prison past their expected release dates.

Florida calculates a prisoner’s release date using a program called Offender Based Information System (OBIS). Some calculations are redone by hand. Yet, when that occurs, the DOC does not provide any written guidelines for employees to follow. The ACLU said that the Florida DOC is evading public accountability and oversight when they refuse to release these formulas.

The ACLU hopes to use this case to push for reforms that would reduce Florida’s prison population, such as addressing the state’s truth-in-sentencing law requiring those convicted of crimes to serve 85% of their time. The ACLU would like to see that once again reduced to 65%.

“Most of these individuals will eventually be released and will return to our communities,” said ACLU attorney Jackie Azis. “For those individuals and their loved ones, the accuracy of FDOC’s calculated release date is critically important. FDOC’s refusal to share how they calculate release dates is Kafkaesque. Decisions that impact people’s lives are being made and we have no idea how.” The case is pending with no decisions by the court yet. See: American Civil Liberties Union of Florida v. Florida Dept. of Corrections, Florida Second Judicial Circuit, Case No. 37 2020 CA 000854. 

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Related legal case

American Civil Liberties Union of Florida v. Florida Dept. of Corrections