Rick Scott: Limited Government Hero

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

CORRECTION: Please see a major correction to this post here.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has saved Florida taxpayers a whopping $200,000 . . . by eliminating the state’s two-year-old Innocence Commission.

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.


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46 Responses to “Rick Scott: Limited Government Hero”

  1. #1 |  Bramblyspam | 

    Hey, think of all the money saved by not compensating the wrongfully convicted. That would probably amount to well over $200,000, no?

  2. #2 |  David | 

    Yeah, but you can save the same amount of money by plugging your fingers in your ears and yelling “I can’t hear you” whenever those criminal-coddling defense “attorneys” start sniffing around.

  3. #3 |  Ron | 

    He needs to make up the money Florida lost on his drug-testing of welfare recipients.

  4. #4 |  z | 

    The innocence commission doesn’t prevent wrongful convictions, it corrects them after they have happened, so it doesn’t save the state any money in that regard.

  5. #5 |  Capo | 

    David, you are a troll. If there is one thing this country could use much, much less of, it’s convictions. Criminal Statutes are out of control, and locking people in cages is fast becoming America’s pastime sport.

    Defense attorneys have the much harder job, and I would argue are much more ethical than slimy prosecutors who will stop at nothing to put people behind bars in some sick game of who can distort the law more.

  6. #6 |  Radley Balko | 

    <em.The innocence commission doesn’t prevent wrongful convictions, it corrects them after they have happened, so it doesn’t save the state any money in that regard.


  7. #7 |  David | 

    Should I have used a tag?

  8. #8 |  David | 

    A SARCASM tag. Apparently even if you put a space between the bracket and the slash the commenting software still tries to parse the thing.

  9. #9 |  Radley Balko | 

    David, you are a troll.

    Pretty sure David was using sarcasm.

  10. #10 |  croaker | 

    Florida doesn’t have a veto override provision?

  11. #11 |  Lori Wilson | 

    I believe that in Florida, you are not entitled to any compensation for a wrongful conviction if you had ever been convicted of anything in the past.

  12. #12 |  Andrew S. | 

    As a Floridian, I find myself pining for the days of Charlie Crist. Even he was miles better than Scott, who must be trying to position himself for something in the future instead of trying to be governor of Florida.

  13. #13 |  nigmalg | 

    Surprised the early release for drug offenders even passed the legislature. I’m sure the various police unions had to make their last stand at the Governor’s mansion.

    Florida doesn’t have a veto override provision?

    Great question. I certainly hope so.

  14. #14 |  nigmalg | 

    …[a] representative of the Florida Police Benevolent Association (PBA) approached me to say that they would support a smarter approach so long as we pledged to not violate two principles:  do not support changing the 85% time that all felons must serve and do not support any early release of prisoners. 

    In the Governor’s veto letter he writes that he is opposed to felons being diverted to counseling and then not having to serve the minimum 85% of their sentence.


    Oh hey, what a surprise. I was right.

  15. #15 |  damaged justice | 

    Trolling and sarcasm are indistinguishable except by intent.

  16. #16 |  StrangeOne | 

    Florida Police Benevolent Association, huh. I like how they just shoe-horned the word “Benevolent” in the title, despite not making any sense in the acronym.

    Kind of like how all those brutal revolutionary groups in third world countries slap words like “the Peoples”, “Liberty”, and “Freedom” on their title to distinguish themselves from the brutal government they want to replace.

  17. #17 |  Greg N. | 

    What’s weird about the Bishop column is HB 177 was supported by the Center for Smart Justice, and the Sheriffs *didn’t* oppose it. In fact, no one did. There was initial opposition, but by the time the bill worked its way through committee and got pared down to basically nothing, everyone – again, even law enforcement! – was on board. The veto was truly baffling. But like Bishop says, we’ll be back next year.

  18. #18 |  nigmalg | 

    At least with the PBA they don’t make use of an elementary synonym for “gang”.

    Read: Fraternal Order of Police

  19. #19 |  David | 

    an elementary synonym for “gang”.


  20. #20 |  Nonie | 

    @Andrew S. – Me, too.

  21. #21 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    I believe that in Florida, you are not entitled to any compensation for a wrongful conviction if you had ever been convicted of anything in the past.
    Only those who were never convicted of any offense, in any state and at anytime can have their record sealed in Florida. So, if you have a conviction on your record, you cannot seal ANY arrest record, even in arrests unrelated to the offense.
    So if the cops thought you fought too hard on your trial, or
    don’t like your attitude, or just your face,they can arrest you 20 times for random nonsense and make sure you never get a job.

  22. #22 |  Stormy Dragon | 

    Florida Police Benevolent Association, huh. I like how they just shoe-horned the word “Benevolent” in the title, despite not making any sense in the acronym.

    A “benevolent association” is the legal term for a specific type of non-profit defined by statue in many statues. At the time the term arose, the meaning of the word “benevolent” was closer to what we mean by the word “beneficial” now (i.e. the organization existed to be beneficial to its members). In this case, it’s a Benevolent Association whose members are Florida Police.

  23. #23 |  Greg N. | 

    I should note that Barney Bishop, Associated Industries, TaxWatch and the others involved in the Center for Smart Justice have been indispensable getting criminal justice reform going in Florida. We happen to disagree on 177, but there’s no question Bishop is on the right side of things generally.

  24. #24 |  CyniCAl | 

    I am so glad that Florida is 3000 miles from me. It makes it so easy for me to not give shit one about what goes on there.

  25. #25 |  Belle Waring | 

    I’m just throwing this link here so you’ll see it Radley.
    NYC cop was abusing someone he had in cuffs, and when a justice of the NY State Supreme Court walked by in ordinary clothes, and just edged to the front of the crowd because he thought it looked bad, the cop attacked him. Justice wanted to file a complaint, and the supervisor pulled a dummy “we don’t know who you’re talking about” move as the cop walked off. Now that they know it was a state supreme court justice, oopsie! It will be nice to see this play out.

  26. #26 |  KPRyan | 

    Another member of the sicko republican club…

    No doubt Scott is a good ‘Christian’ who talks the talk for donations and support from the pulpit. Well,
    I hope there’s a warm seat in hell for this miserable bastard when his time comes face ‘judgment’.

  27. #27 |  JSL | 

    OT but wow… Aurora Co. cops stop all the cars in an intersection to apprehend a bank robber.


  28. #28 |  nigmalg | 


    “It’s hard to say what normal is in a situation like this when you haven’t dealt with a situation like this,” Fania said. “The result of the whole ordeal is that it paid off. We have arrested and charged a suspect.”

    If you’ve got nothing to hide, then why complain, etc.. etc.. ad nauseum. I have a serious question for them. If the end justifies the means, then why bother having a bill of rights?

  29. #29 |  nigmalg | 

    Oh, I also like how the linebackers demand “permission” to search the vehicle after you’ve been ripped out and forcefully handcuffed. Gee, I wonder what would happen if they said no.

  30. #30 |  Pi Guy | 

    re: Aurora cops

    “The result of the whole ordeal is that it paid off. We have arrested and charged a suspect.”

    So cops can detain dozens of adults, search their cars without a warrant, and then claim it paid off because they caught their guy.

    I hope these people sue the shit out of the city. And maybe send them a copy of the Constitution to read.

  31. #31 |  Capo | 

    Sorry I thought you were being serious. I was seeing red on this one because I live in Florida, voted for the guy, and defended him over and over again early in his governorship.

    He’s been a pretty big disappointment.

  32. #32 |  jmcross | 

    Rick Scott is a tool who, in a just world, would be a convicted felon behind the Columbia/HCA fraud. Gov. Scott and Sen. Rubio are prime examples of the “Tea Party” in FL going off the rails.

  33. #33 |  MassHole | 

    Felons don’t vote. If a politician can get an advantage by sticking to them, it’s an easy decision. I’m sure Rick Scott is an amoral asshole just like 95% of politicians. With that in mind, why would anyone expect him to look out for a constituency that has no money or voting base to contribute to him.

  34. #34 |  CyniCAl | 

    “I do feel that it’s important for this person to be disciplined. I don’t know if he should be an officer or not — what he was doing was so violent.”

    Not that I give much of a shit what happens in that cesspool known as NY either, but zomg lol! Poor widdle judge didn’t know that cops are selected based on their propensity to violence! Some people are sooooooo naive.

  35. #35 |  CyniCAl | 

    Couldn’t those Aurora cops have seized every bit of cash they found on each detainee as drug money? What a blown opportunity. Come to think of it, they could have seized their vehicles too. And they call themselves cops. What a bunch of slackers. They should all be fired for incompetence.

  36. #36 |  A Question of Justice » Because this is how Florida should save money… | 

    […] From Radley Balko over at The Agitator: […]

  37. #37 |  John Thacker | 

    Oh, and look, here’s Illinois doing the same thing. Except here somehow the (Democratically controlled) Legislature stripped the funding, even though it created the commission three years ago, right before it was about to report.

    And somehow no one is taking credit for the funding being stripped, but it happened. Funny thing, politics.

  38. #38 |  Andre Kenji | 

    Off-post, but it´s important:


  39. #39 |  Greg N. | 

    Surely there’s a benevolent private (or some citizens) citizen willing to put up $200K to keep this going, right? And imagine the reaction when they find the next innocent person; the person whose case would’ve gone unnoticed because of Scott’s decision to kill the Commission.


  40. #40 |  celticdragonchick | 

    Radley, you really need to frontpage the Aurora cop blockade story mentioned upthread. This is one of the most astonishing mass violations of rights in the last several years.

    Eugene Volokh and Ann Althouse have been covering it.

  41. #41 |  Matthew | 

    @39 In your last sentence you’ve identified precisely why Radley doesn’t feel the need to post on it. He’s explained this many times.

  42. #42 |  celticdragonchick | 


    Radley has a wide following and his perspective would be helpful, I think.

  43. #43 |  pierre | 

    There is no veto override in Florida? The vote was nearly unanimous.

  44. #44 |  Gimmel Yod | 

    Well, –you need to understand that when you’re a politician who benefits from the privatized prison system thru kickbacks & other means; –You can’t have a little detail like somebody’s innocence standing in the way of keeping the prisons full & your kickbacks large.

  45. #45 |  Florida, Illinois Eliminate Commissions that Help Free Innocent, Investigate Police Torture - Hit & Run : Reason.com | 

    […] invaluable American justice system resource (and Southern California Journalism Award nominee!), makes quick work of whatever economic argument might have been used to justify this […]

  46. #46 |  Correction | The Agitator | 

    […] week, I put up a post here and wrote a short piece at HuffPost about Gov. Rick Scott vetoing funding for the Florida Innocence […]