Thanks to decades of tough-on-crime policies, Florida now has the third-largest prison population in the United States — nearly 100,000 people, including more minors than any other state. Florida requires people to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences and has abolished parole. All this costs taxpayers $2.4 billion per year.

“There’s a general feeling that something has to be done. Locking someone in a cage is a severe penalty, and I think slowly people are realizing this. After the war on drugs in the ’90s — we’re swinging back from that, like a pendulum.”

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, Florida prosecutes more children in adult courts than any other state in the country — more than 7,600 minors since 2011, most for nonviolent offenses.

“These kids are even as young as — check this out — 10 years old,” said Bush, who has filed a bill to modify the process.

Scott McCoy, senior policy counsel in Florida for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said efforts to reform direct file failed in the past in part because the bills proposed too many changes in a single bill.


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