Buckling under the weight of a $79 million deficit, Florida’s prison system is cutting back on the visits that probation officers have with offenders, says the Tampa Bay Times. It is a move sure to raise public safety concerns. Corrections Secretary Ken Tucker confirmed the latest budget-cutting move but he emphasized it would not jeopardize public safety or violate state law. “We are not eliminating field contacts. We are just reducing some of the field contacts,” Tucker said, referring to visits with offenders on probation. “Nothing is being done carelessly or without regard to public safety.”
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents prison employees, had a different view. “This is dangerous and illegal,” said Teamsters spokeswoman Leslie Miller. “It gives violent offenders one meeting a month.” She predicted it would prompt more offenders to flee. Local officials also were concerned. “Less supervision of offenders is certainly not a good thing,” said Bruce Bartlett, Pinellas-Pasco’s chief assistant state attorney. “Judges place people on probation with the intention that they’ll be monitored by the Department of Corrections. Any reduction in the supervisory capacity of probation officers creates potential issues.” Even if prison officials require offenders to visit the probation office in lieu of a visit, it’s “not the same effect as having someone knock on your door at 11 o’clock at night,” Bartlett said.