After Carlie Brucia was abducted and killed this year in Sarasota, Fl., it became clear that the assailant, Joseph P. Smith, an unemployed mechanic, had violated the conditions of his probation many times. At first, reports the Associated Press, the reaction from state legislators was angry. One proposal would have required judges send violent probation violators back to prison for at least five years, unless they determined in a hearing and put in writing that the person wasn’t a danger to the community. The legislature did not make substantive changes.
In August, six people were bludgeoned to death in Deltona, Fl., in an apparent dispute about a video-game system. The accused ringleader, a man with a violent past, had allegedly violated probation a few days before the killing, but he had remained on the street. The Department of Corrections fired four probation officers and the department ordered officers to make arrests of violent offenders without warrants when they violate probation conditions pending a court hearing. The legislature will again discuss tightening the laws and whether there’s enough money for probation officers to keep watch over their charges. “We think this is the number one issue facing Florida,” Attorney General Charlie Crist said. He thinks violent criminals who violate the probation terms should be held without bail at least until a hearing, and there should be a presumption that the judge should send them to jail. Under his proposal, judges who determine that a person isn’t a danger to the community and shouldn’t go back to prison must put it in writing.