Throwing all Florida probation violators back behind bars is clogging courts, severely crowding prisons, and hurting convicts’ chances of straightening out their lives, says a state auditors’ study reported by the Tallahassee Democrat. The study said prison education and drug-treatment programs can help a lot, but they reach only a small fraction of prisoners who need it. Legislators ordered the study after the forced resignation of former corrections secretary James Crosby — now awaiting sentencing in federal court on a $130,000 kickback conviction — and the arrests of some probationers for headline-making murders.
Gov. Charlie Crist is pressing for an “anti-murder” act that would make it easier for courts to lock up parole and probation violators for long periods. A 2003 “zero tolerance” policy on probation violators increased “technical” violation reports by 54 percent. The practice “requires a significant amount of resources to be spent on offenders who commit minor technical violations and who pose little threat to public safety,” the report said. Some sixty percent of probationers arrested for technical violations saw them dismissed with no additional penalties. A separate report said that 90 percent of inmates in education programs do not complete them because they get out of prison or are transferred.