REGARDING MARCH 15th Article in the Orlando Sentinal:
----- Original Message -----
From: Kay Lee
To: FDOC James Crosby
Sent: Monday, March 17, 2003 3:27 AM
Subject: JAMES CROSBY - TRUE GRIT?
REGARDING MARCH 15th Article in the Orlando Sentinal: Corrections chief shows grit in plans to clean house arrest
by Kay Lee
I read this article with great agitation and frustration. Contrary to the flattering byline, James Crosby is not showing true 'grit', he is showing pure ignorance - again. This is the same old flexing of the muscles and mouth (versus exercising common sense) that is constantly and consistently demonstrated by the Florida prison administrators.
How much more money does the federal and state governments think the taxpayer can dole out to support the failing "Get-Tough-On-Criminals" and mass incarceration policies that have already made America the leading prison nation of the world?
If the public wants real safety from repeat criminals, and if the DOC is really interested in lowering recidivism rates to give us that safety, spending millions on monitors to catch every probationer who leaves the house without authorization and then spending more millions to return them to prison is not the way to do it. This nonsense is leading taxpayers into bankruptcy.
All the monitors, probation officers and re-imprisonment Crosby chooses to spend our money on will not solve the problem. Never has, never will. Rehabilitation is vital to public safety, and there are many programs the money could be spent on that would actually make the prisoner a better citizen, thereby insuring our increased safety.
For instance, in 1999, prison leaders of the Department of "Corrections" decided to try a long-term faith-based program called Kairos at Tomoka CI. The decision was reported to be based on the immense success of the Kairos weekends... Success that was measured by the Florida Department of 'Corrections' own study.
The department's study found that inmates who participate in Kairos weekends have a 33 percent drop in comparative rates of re-offending prisoners.
The study also reported that those prisoners who participate in Kairos follow-up activities have a 57 percent reduction in recidivism, compared to similar offenders.
Randy Bryant, assistant warden for operations at Tomoka Correctional Institution at the time of the study, said he would like to see every dorm take part in the Kairos Horizon program.
"There's a vast difference in attitude between the Kairos inmates and the general population," Bryant said. "The program gives them the opportunity to bond with individuals from the community who can actually tell them what the real world is about. Through the weeks they develop a real rapport among themselves and the volunteers who teach the classes."
So why, if James Crosby is so sincere, doesn't he show True Grit and incorporate more of these programs in the prisons? When is the public going to wise up to the very real and dangerous prison con-games played by the Florida Department of 'Corrections'?
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Saturday, March 15, 2003
Corrections chief shows grit in plans to clean house arrest
By Rene Stutzman and Letitia Stein | Sentinel Staff Writers Posted March 13,
Prospects for wide-ranging reform of Florida's troubled house-arrest program moved forward on three fronts Wednesday.
Corrections Secretary James Crosby disclosed that he has begun a major in-house campaign to toughen up what had been a poorly managed program.
"We're very serious about this," he said.
The biggest change is a new "zero tolerance" policy for criminals caught breaking the rules, such as leaving home without authorization. Previously, house-arrest officers often ignored those "technical" violations, especially if the offender didn't break any laws. As of two weeks ago, that stopped.
"If you commit a violation, you will be reported to the courts," Crosby said Wednesday.
The Florida Department of Corrections also has reassigned probation officers to relieve a serious caseload imbalance. State law caps a house-arrest officer's workload at 25 cases, but DOC has often ignored the limit.
For example, in January, officers in Orlando, Jacksonville and Fort Pierce averaged 35 cases each.
As of last month, however, officers saw that stripped down to a maximum of 28 cases, Crosby said.
There were two other major developments Wednesday.
A state Senate committee passed a bill designed to slash the number of violent offenders on house arrest, and an investigative panel urged the Legislature to give DOC twice as much money for electronic tethers, so it can monitor the whereabouts of house-arrest criminals more closely.
Currently, 6 percent of the 10,100 criminals on house arrest are outfitted with monitors.
The proposed fixes come 21/2 months after an Orlando Sentinel investigation found that criminals on Florida house arrest routinely break the law, victimize hundreds of people each year and simply don't stay home.
In the program's 20-year history, more than 234 people have been killed and 538 sexually abused by criminals on house arrest, the Sentinel found. More than 5,000 have disappeared, never to be recaptured.
In addition, the Sentinel found that more than half of the criminals placed on DOC house arrest have their sentences revoked in their first year, and that the department fails, at times, to enforce court orders spelling out how often an offender must check in.
The homicide figure, state Senate President Jim King, R-Jacksonville, said Wednesday, is "a really disappointingly, astronomically high figure."
He praised the bill, the Howard E. Futch Community Safety Act, which was approved by the state Senate committee on Criminal Justice, a panel Sen. Futch, R-Indialantic, chaired until his sudden death Jan. 23.
Futch had said he was outraged by the number of homicides committed by house-arrest offenders and vowed reform, but he died before his bill came to a vote.
"It was one of those bills that had him in his own zone," King said. "He was angry. He was going to make change."
Co-sponsor state Sen. Rod Smith, D-Gainesville, called the legislation "not a final fix, but a step in the right direction. . I know this will improve where we are."
The bill is designed to stop judges from ignoring a 15-year-old statute that prohibits them from placing certain two-time violent criminals on house arrest.
If they do, they'll be told about it and perhaps shamed into correcting the problem. Why? Because the local state attorney and Florida attorney general will be told about it, too.
The bill also orders the department to begin evaluating each house-arrest offender for risk. That would allow it to identify which criminals are the most dangerous and supervise them more closely, something it does not now do.
Members of the Florida Corrections Commission, a panel that advises Gov. Jeb Bush on prison issues, also voted Wednesday to recommend that same change, one of a dozen it formalized.
Its meatiest proposal, though, may not survive a budget battle.
It's asking the state to double to $5 million the amount DOC spends each year on electronic ankle straps. Offenders wearing them commit half as many crimes and run away half as often, according to DOC statistics.
"It's one of the few things that, when you spend money, you're actually buying fewer crimes," said John Fuller, the commission's executive director.
Bush, though, has shown no willingness to increase the budget for electronic monitors from the $2.5 million he proposed in January.
But state Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa, chairman of the criminal justice appropriations subcommittee, predicted that the Legislature would find more money for more monitors.
"It will be funded. I'm very confident. I've already been told by the Senate president that it's a priority," he said.
Crosby said he would find the money, with the help of a $1 million federal grant, to begin testing three electronic-monitoring systems, then later this year or early next year pick the most effective one.
"We can always improve any process," he said.
Crosby, on the job two months, began making house-arrest reforms in mid-February. He ordered managers to check the case notes of house-arrest officers once a week rather than monthly. That allows them to spot problems and confirm that officers are checking each offender the mandatory three times a week. Crosby also ordered officers to investigate within 48 hours any unauthorized absences. Before, officers had an unlimited amount of time to do that.
"We are monitoring these individuals more closely," said Gil Fortner, president of the probation officers chapter of the Florida Police Benevolent Association. "If we find violations, we take immediate response."
Rene Stutzman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Letitia Stein can be reached at email@example.com or 850-222-5564.
FULL KAIROS ARTICLE
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