With the Florida state budget tightening, 66 Department of Corrections probation officers lost their jobs last week, says the Miami Herald. The layoffs targeted those with less than a year of service and represented a 3 percent reduction in the probation officer force statewide. The cuts stemmed from last year’s cuts in the prison system’s budget, which faces a $28 million hole in its balance sheet. Probation officers had stepped into the spotlight with two high-profile murders of children, Carlie Brucia and Jessica Lunsford. Both were killed by felons who had violated their probation, prompting lawmakers to crack down on probation violators and increase the workload of probation officers.
”It’s purely economics. You can only do what you can afford to do,” said Sen. Victor Crist. “Right now, there’s not enough revenue to do what should be done.” The Police Benevolent Association says it believes the layoffs will jeopardize public safety. The caseload for the remaining probation officers will grow by 11 percent for each officer, to 93 cases on average, up from 84. Senate Minority Leader Al Lawson decried the probation officer layoffs; he asked Gov. Charlie Crist to veto the budget and force the legislature to redo the budget cuts.