Ari Porth: Save $$$ By Ending Jail For Non-Violent Drug Crimes


State Rep. Ari Porth has a new way for Florida to save money:  End minimum mandatory sentencing for nonviolent drug offenders.

The law is ridiculous and clogging up our prisons with inmates who don’t belong there.

Porth of Coral Springs notes that it costs the state $55-a-day to house an inmate.

He said that he has seen middle class, contributing member of society victimized by minimum mandatory sentences.

“There are people who were in car accidents who become hooked on pain pills, Porth said.  “Then they are pulled over by an officer for something routine.  The officer finds seven pills in their possession and suddenly they are slapped with mandatory prison time.”

Currently if someone is convicted of possession of as little as four grams of an opiate like morphine, oxycodone or  heroin, they face a mandatory sentence of three years in the state pen.  Four grams is an amount equal to less than three Wheat Thins!

Under Porth’s bill,  judges would decide on a case-by-case basis which non-violent drug abusers deserve a second chance.

Porth is riding a recent trend in the nation which has found that mandatory sentencing for non-violent crimes is expensive and doesn’t work.

The Rockefeller Laws

Mandatory sentencing may not have started with Nelson Rockefeller, but he was the most notable proponent of them.

In 1973,  then-New York Governor Rockefeller pushed through a law which mandated stiff sentences for possessing modest amounts of everything from marijuana to heroin. Possession of even a little pot by first time offenders faced a mandatory 15 years in the slammer — on par with second-degree murderers.

The laws were designed to take sentencing decisions out of the hand of  what conservatives called “lily-livered liberal judges”.  As if the judiciary was the responsible for drug abuse!

New York prisons quickly filled with non-violent offenders. New York dropped its mandatory sentences in 2009, saying it was costing up to $300 million-a-year and accomplishing nothing.

It will be interesting to see if the Republicans buy Porth’s sensible idea. Or do they only want to cut school budgets and aid for the poor?

At least one Republican likes the bill.  The Senate sponsor is Republican Ellyn Bogdanoff of Fort Lauderdale, chair of Budget subcommittee on Finance and Tax.  (My son Aaron is Bogdanoff’s legislative assistant)

Porth’s idea makes sense.  He’s the perfect lawmaker to sell it because he is a prosecutor.

Current Laws Unfair, Don’t Work

Besides budget consideration, there are other obvious reasons to end mandatory sentences for non-violent drug offenders.

Many of those locked up are minorities who can’t afford good lawyers to bargain the charges down.

Jimmy O’Malley caught in his Corvette riding dirty with an ounce of coke walks.  Tashandra Williams nabbed in the projects with a gram of coke does years in the pen.

Approximately 90 percent of those jailed in New York’s 25-year experiment with minimum mandatory sentences were blacks and Hispanics.  The staff research on Porth’s bill has not been done yet,  but I believe the Florida stats will be just as stacked against minorities.

The biggest reason to try Porth’s approach is that mandatory sentencing never cured the problem. Offenders need rehab, not prison.

Porth’s bill is a step in that direction.


Note: Porth is running for Broward County commission in 2012. His opponent for now is the incumbent Stacy Ritter.

9 Responses to “Ari Porth: Save $$$ By Ending Jail For Non-Violent Drug Crimes”

  1. Julian says:

    Funny how Porth works for the main offender Mike Satz. MIke never met a poor black druggie he didn’t want to imprison.

  2. Lady Law says:

    I agree with Julian.
    Maybe this is Porth’s way of breaking with Satz. This change has been needed for a long time. Satz’s office has unfairly prosecuted minor drug crimes for years and that has fallen mainly on blacks.

  3. But Buddy says:

    This is a step in the right direction, but calling Ari Porth a “prosecutor” is a bit of a stretch.

    He’s got a cushy part-timer gig doing “truancy prosecution” which is nothing more than getting parents to show up to classes and make their kids go to school or he might raise his voice at them….

    When was the last time that Ari prosecuted a case to a trial, or handled a drug matter?

    Not a real prosecutor in anyone’s book.

    Oh, sorry to use the momiker of “But Buddy” on a story about people in prison. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    Well, in his book he is a prosecutor. He calls himself a “prosecutor.” In fact here is his bio from the House website:

    City of Residence:Coral Springs
    Spouse:Tatyana Porth, of St. Petersburg, Russia
    Child(ren): Gabriel Benjamin Porth
    Education:Northeastern University, B.S., 1991; Nova Southeastern University, J.D., 1995
    Born:September 25, 1970, Washington, D.C.

    The rule at newspapers I worked for was to use the description people gave for their own profession. I could use “assistant state attorney,” but he prefers prosecutor.

    Actually, the definition for prosecutor is not confined to one who argues cases in court. It is defined as one who initiates and handles legal actions on behalf of the state. Isn’t Mike Satz and Chuck Morton prosecutors, although they largely administrators the state attorney’s office?

  4. Just sayin! says:

    Wow! Buddy- saying Ari isn’t a prosecutor for not spending enough time in court is like saying your not a writer for not getting enough of you facts correct. Hmmmm…

  5. Nick Steffens says:

    I crack on Ari (to his face, mind you) about some of his political matters, but this is good work, long overdue and a good starting point about changing sentencing policies in Florida. Now, let’s see if Dean Cannon will let him get it to the floor. They better get a super majority together too, no way Scott signs this.

  6. Broward Politico says:

    @Just sayin and Buddy:

    ASA Ari Porth runs the Truancy Unit in the State Attorney’s Office. A “cushy” well paying position created for him by Mike Satz.
    Yes, technically Ari is a prosecutor. The truth, however, is that Ari has not tried a jury or judge trial in a very long time. Ari hasn’t done anything significant in the Office, but he’s a politician and his dad is a popular Kings Point’s doctor so Mike gives Ari a free ride.
    Let’s call a spade a spade.

    You just did call a spade a spade.

  7. S only says:

    Non violent drug offenders should NOT be in jail. Not only change the law—but let GO the ones already there. Too expensive. Illogical,
    regressive law. Let’s focus on the real problems in Florida.

  8. The Long Black Robe (Ret) says:

    This is an idea that should have been dealt with a generation ago. I wish Ari Porth success.

    I had defendants who did not belong in the DOC system who I had to sentence to 3 years because of this misguided law. Some were just children who were thrown to the wolves in the state prisons. They were not helped. Their lives were ruined and, sadly, I saw more than one return to my court. I always wondered if this mandatory law didn’t exist, could I have saved some of them? Just one?

  9. Linney says:

    These laws are good tools in the hands of honorable authorities. They have been abused by the Broward State Attorney, applying them to cases of simple possession and drug addiction without any indicia of drug selling. The baby will now be thrown out with the bath water because of bad faith prosecutions.