Charlie Crist on Crime



"Chain Gang Charlie": reinstitute prisoner labor on highways

It was the chain gangs that really got me noticed in Tallahassee. In 1995, Alabama had revived the practice of shackling prisoners together and sending them out to work with armed guards, often collecting litter along the highway. The practice had been abandoned in most places in the 1940s. Still, I thought reinstituting appropriate punishment was an important concept, and I decided on a dramatic way of making the point. So one day in the Senate chamber, I hoisted a set of chains above my head--and boy, were they heavier than I thought!

I co-sponsored a chain gang amendment. An editorial writer at the St. Petersburg Times coined the nickname "Chain Gang Charlie." I can assure you it was not meant as a term of endearment. But soon enough, people across the state were calling me "Chain Gang," and I didn't mind it one bit. Being tough on criminals was fine with Republicans.

Source: The Party's Over, by Charlie Crist, p. 43-44 , Feb 4, 2014

1978: Florida State murders taught empathy for victims

Just after we all returned to school from Christmas break, the whole Tallahassee campus was badly shaken by an absolutely harrowing event. Around 2:45am on Jan. 15, an unknown man walked into the Chi Omega sorority house and savagely beat 4 young women. He then broke into a basement apartment 8 blocks away and attacked another Florida State student.

It took 3 weeks for the assailant to be caught. He was a former law student from Washington State named Ted Bundy, on a cross-country, multi-year murder spree. Before he was finally put to death in 1989, he confessed to 30 murders in 7 states between 1974 and 1978. The true total could be much higher. The attacks left me with an intense empathy for crime victims that has followed me through my life. It also cemented my interest in attending law school.

Source: The Party's Over, by Charlie Crist, p. 25-26 , Feb 4, 2014

1993: Sponsored STOP law: Stop Turning Out Prisoners

One thing I noticed was that many people who went to prison in Florida didn't seem to stay very long. It wasn't unusual for prisoners--even murderers--to pack their stuff and go home after 20 or 25% of their terms. The criminal justice system had plenty of justice for the criminals and almost none for the victims of their crimes. So I sponsored legislation requiring inmates to serve at least 85% of their sentences. STOP, it was called, for Stop Turning Out Prisoners. It flew through the legislature. Governor Chiles allowed the change to become law without his signature, going along with it while hinting he wasn't exactly thrilled.
Source: The Party's Over, by Charlie Crist, p. 43 , Feb 4, 2014

Chain-Gang Charlie: reinstitute prison chain gangs

Crist has been doggedly reminding people: He says he is a pro-gun, anti-abortion, small-government conservative who worships Ronald Reagan. He says he is against gay marriage, frugal (he pays off his single credit card every month) and despised by criminals (he once proposed that chain gangs be reinstituted, earning him the nickname Chain Gang Charlie).
Source: New York Times on 2010 Florida Senate debate , Jan 10, 2010

Stop Turning Out Prisoners: serve at least 85% of sentence

Crist received invaluable experience in Florida's criminal justice system while interning in the State Attorney's Office.

In 1992, he won a seat in the Florida Senate, where he represented the interests of citizens concerned about such issues as education, crime, the environment and elder affairs. During his six years in the Senate, Crist served as Chairman of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee and as Chairman of the Appropriations Criminal Justice Subcommittee. A strong voice for public safety, he sponsored, among other legislation, the Stop Turning Out Prisoners (STOP) bill requiring prisoners to serve at least 85 percent of their prison sentences. This achievement earned him numerous honors, including appointment as an Honorary Sheriff by the Florida Sheriffs Association--only the third person to receive the honor in the organization's long history.

Source: 2010 Senate campaign website, www.charliecrist.com, "Issues" , Dec 25, 2009

Supports 10-20-Life and Stop Turning Out Prisoners program

In the Preamble to the Constitution, one of the primary roles of government is defined as ensuring domestic tranquility, which means keeping our people safe. We are fulfilling this responsibility with tougher laws and increased enforcement along with crime prevention strategies within the criminal justice system. Effective legislation such as Stop Turning Out Prisoners and 10-20-Life is making an impact on the crime rate, while the Anti-Murder Act will prevent future tragedies. And we must also work together to address crime in our state, including gang activity.

I was proud to launch the Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Unit in 2005 to thwart the actions of those who target our children. Attorney General Bill McCollum has made fighting this crime a top priority.

Source: 2008 State of the State Address to Florida legislature , Mar 4, 2008

Supports 10-20-Life and Stop Turning Out Prisoners program

And we must also work together to address crime in our state, including gang activity.

I was proud to launch the Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Unit in 2005 to thwart the actions of those who target our children. Attorney General Bill McCollum has made fighting this crime a top priority.

Source: 2008 State of the State Address to Florida legislature , Mar 4, 2008

Proposed the Anti-Murder Act

I have proposed the Anti-Murder Act. I have witnessed firsthand the unimaginable limits of human grief when a parent loses a child to violent crime. Until you have listened to a father or a mother who have seen the light of their lives extinguished by the monstrous assault of a violent felon, you cannot know the enormity of the threat we face. We owe our parents the simple assurance that we have done everything within our power to prevent these atrocities from ever happening again.
Source: 2007 State of the State Address , Mar 6, 2007

Require that prisoners serve at least 85% of their sentences

As a State Senator, Charlie fought for and passed the STOP (Stop Turning Out Prisoners) legislation that required, for the first time, that prisoners serve at least 85% of their sentences.
Source: 2006 Senate campaign website, www.charliecrist.com, “Issues” , Nov 7, 2006

Broaden use of federal death penalty

Source: Congressional 1998 National Political Awareness Test , Nov 1, 1998

More federal prisons; more “truth in sentencing”

Source: Congressional 1998 National Political Awareness Test , Nov 1, 1998

First step: reduce recidivism & mass incarceration.

Crist voted YEA First Step Act

Congressional Summary:

Opposing press release from Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA-1):: The reform sentencing laws in this bill may compromise the safety of our communities. Criminals convicted of violent crimes would have the opportunity to achieve 'low risk' status and become eligible for early release. California already has similar laws in place--Propositions 47 and 57--which have hamstrung law enforcement and caused a significant uptick in crime.

Supporting press release from Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10):: S. 756 establishes a new system to reduce the risk that [federal prisoners] will commit crimes once they are released. Critically, S. 756 would not only implement these reforms to our prison system, but it also takes a crucial first step toward addressing grave concerns about our sentencing laws, which have for years fed a national crisis of mass incarceration. The bill is a 'first step' that demonstrates that we can work together to make the system fairer in ways that will also reduce crime and victimization.

Legislative outcome: Concurrence Passed Senate, 87-12-1, on Dec. 18, 2018; Concurrence Passed House 358-36-28, Dec. 20, 2018; President Trump signed, Dec. 21, 2018

Source: Congressional vote 18-S756 on Dec 20, 2018

2017-18 Governor, House and Senate candidates on Crime: Charlie Crist on other issues:
FL Gubernatorial:
Adam Putnam
Alexander Snitker
Andrew Gillum
Gwen Graham
Philip Levine
Rick Scott
Ron DeSantis
Wayne Messam
FL Senatorial:
Alan Grayson
Bill Nelson
Carlos Lopez-Cantera
David Jolly
Edward Janowski
Marco Rubio
Pam Keith
Patrick Murphy
Rick Scott
Ron DeSantis

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Page last updated: Jan 09, 2021