The Williams Institute previously examined the enforcement of Florida’s HIV criminal laws in October 2018.In that report, which analyzed data from 1986 through the end of 2017, we identified 614 people who had been arrested, and 308 arrest incidents that resulted in convictions for HIV-related offenses. In this update, we provide additional details on those who have been incarcerated in Florida prisons for HIV-related crimes with new data on sentence length that continues through the end of calendar year 2020. Those incarcerated for HIV crimes in Florida are a subset of those convicted of HIV crimes.
Our new analysis confirms previous findings—including the disproportionate impact of the enforcement of HIV criminal laws on Black people and women.Moreover, it reveals that enforcement of HIV crimes in 2018 and 2019 was the highest seen in Florida in a decade, but that enforcement virtually stopped during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. We estimate that incarceration in prisons related to HIV crimes has cost Florida’s taxpayers $12.0 million in the last two and a half decades.
- There have been at least 358 separate convictions for HIV-related offenses in Florida since 1986.
- Between 1997 and 2020, at least 154 people were incarcerated in Florida prisons for HIV-related offenses.
- Those 154 people received 205 separate convictions for HIV-related offenses that resulted in a prison sentence.
- Six in ten of these HIV-related convictions were connected to sex work.
- Sex work convictions predominate in Florida’s enforcement of HIV criminal laws until 2010, after which such convictions drop to an average of only one per year.
- The number of new prison sentences was higher in 2018 and 2019 than any other year since 2007.
- In 2020 there was only one new prison sentence, the lowest since at least 1997.
- Black people made up 45% of Florida’s people living with HIV (PLWH) in 2018, but 56% of people with prison sentences for HIV-related crimes.
- Women were 27% of PLWH in Florida in 2018, but 51% of those with HIV-related prison sentences.
- The median prison sentence length for HIV convictions was 2.5 years. The mean sentence length was 3.4 years.
- On average, people served 70% of their prison sentence for HIV offenses.
Using this updated incarceration data, we estimate the total cost of incarceration for HIV-related offenses in Florida prisons over the past 23 years. We find that:
- The average annual cost-per-person incarcerated in prison between 1997 and 2020 in Florida, adjusted for inflation, was $23,552.
- The total cost of incarcerating people for HIV crimes in Florida’s prisons during this period was $12.0 million. These costs do not include costs related to HIV crimes for policing, prosecuting, probation, parole, etc.
- As a more conservative measure for the cost of incarceration in Florida’s prisons, we estimate the marginal cost of incarceration for HIV crimes in Florida for the same period to be $1.4 million.
We also include new estimates on the number of jail sentences and the cost of incarceration in Florida’s jails in an appendix at the end of this report. The supplemental analysis reveals an additional $3.2 million to the overall incarceration cost estimate. All told, the cost of incarceration associated with Florida’s HIV criminalization laws totals $15.2 million.