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Rick Scott, Governor
Florida Department of Corrections, Secretary Julie L. Jones

Florida Department of Corrections
Julie L. Jones, Secretary

Florida Corrections:  Centuries of Progress

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Inmate population
June 30, 1982:

The Corrections Overcrowding Task Force is created during the June 1982 Special Session of the Legislature in response to the prison overcrowding crisis. All branches of government are represented in the eleven-member team. The Task Force meets monthly until it presents 57 recommendations in February 1983.

Governor Graham and 20+ task force members
The "Corrections Overcrowding Task Force" was created during the June 1982 Special Session of the Legislature in response to the prison overcrowding crisis. Governor Bob Graham is shown sitting behind the desk and Secretary Wainwright is behind and on the left.

OBIS: New databases implemented this year include the Offender Tracking System (OTS), Inmate Information System (IIS), and Probation and Parole Services System (PPSS). The first computer terminals are purchased and installed for field staff. These terminals provide access to the databases stored on the Justice Data Center mainframe located in Tallahassee.

Flag at half staff with DC BadgeProbation Supervisor Bjorn T. Svenson is fatally shot, receiving multiple gunshot wounds to the head and body, while in the parking lot of the North Miami Probation and Parole Office on August 31, 1982.

Michael Manguso, Correctional Programs Administrator for Community Corrections, recalls the circumstances of Svenson's death. Svenson's story is used in training other officers to illustrate the importance of good record keeping and keeping other officers aware of your circumstances. These factors undoubtedly contributed to Svenson's assailant's conviction and subsequent death sentence. Manguso explains...

Svenson's Death and its Aftermath

Tom was my supervisor and I was at the scene of the crime shortly after the murder occurred (along with other staff members). I testified at the trial as I had been the next to last person to see him that evening. I was appointed by the Department at that time to be custodian of the file on Phillips during the trial and subsequent appeals.

Tom was shot and killed by Harry Franklin Phillips, DC# 008035 (currently on Death Row for that offense) on August 31, 1982, a parolee who had been revoked previously for technical violations that were related to an "imagined" crush on his female parole officer.

Photo of Officer Svenson
Probation Supervisor
Bjorn T. Svenson

He followed her out of the county and approached her in a Publix, asking for a kiss, etc. At the parole hearing, he made a veiled threat to Tom in the men's restroom at Lake Butler. Despite the parole revocation (his original parole was for an armed robbery) he was released to parole again to the 11-4 or North Office in Miami. He began showing up in unusual places attempting to contact persons who had been involved in his previous conviction (the State Attorney for example) and revocation. He also was observed several times by his parked car at the routes that several of the officers involved in the case took to their homes after work. A number of meetings with Phillips were taking place during this time re-asserting his conditions of parole during which he became increasingly agitated.

Just a week before Tom's murder, there was also an incident in which an unknown suspect fired several shots into the home of a probation officer who was dating Phillips' probation officer, as he sat on the couch with her. The shots just missing them. Again, Phillips was the prime suspect, but it was not proven.

Tom was shot outside the North Office while placing some old phone books into the trash. He tried to run after being shot, but one of the bullets struck his spine and he was only able to run about 40 feet before collapsing. At that point, Phillips reloaded the gun and emptied the gun into Tom. Phillips had hidden in the parking lot and waited for me and another officer, Francis Gaiter, to leave before ambushing Tom.

This issue has been used in training CPO's because during this entire episode, Tom and the officers involved kept extensive case notes detailing all their interactions with Phillips. I testified from these case notes at trial, as they were considered part of the daily business record, not hearsay, and it was as if Tom was there to testify against Phillips in the murder trial. His detailed recollection of the threats at Lake Butler, another threat made by Phillips during a visit to his home by Tom and other officers where there was a verbal confrontation between Tom and Phillips' mother, as well as the notes in the files from other officers detailing Phillips activities in the time up to the murder were essential in proving motive in the crime and gave a true picture of events, which contradicted the testimony from others that Phillips was a good parolee. During Phillips' interview with Miami-Dade Police Detective Greg Smith, he made a number of outrageous allegations about Tom and his probation officer. The case notes provided a true picture of what was actually happening with this case.

Detective Smith, who was the lead detective in the case, and prosecutor David Waksman of the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office have made several presentations at FCCD conferences and other statewide training sessions detailing the lessons to be learned from this tragic incident:

  • Keep detailed case notes
  • Realize that all offenders have a potential to cause you harm
  • Keep other staff and supervisors aware of circumstances of your offenders which arouse suspicion.

Smith is now retired from the Miami-Dade Police Department and Waksman is still with his agency.

After his original conviction, a Death Warrant was signed by Governor Martinez on October 5, 1987. A stay was issued and Phillips death sentence (not the conviction) was overturned by the Supreme Court and a new sentencing hearing ordered. He was again sentenced to death in that re-hearing. An appeal of that sentence was not upheld. He has been on Death Row since February 1, 1984. In 2008, in another appeal, the Florida Supreme Court affirms the circuit court’s finding that Phillips is not mentally retarded and affirms its denial of relief.

CPO and parolee standing in front of fork lift
Correctional Probation Officer Larry Hamilton visiting a parolee (Ronnie Levon Speights) at his place of work. CPO Larry Hamilton later becomes the Bureau Chief for Probation and Parole Field Services. After getting off Parole, Ronnie Speights attempts to rob a bank in Monticello and is shot and killed by a Deputy coming out of the bank. The off-duty Deputy was still holding money in one hand when he grasped the situation, pulled and fired his gun with the other hand.

Officer handing judge paper
Correctional Probation Officer is providing a Modular Presentence Investigation Report to Judge W. Wm. Graybill.

Officer behind desk looking a papers and offender sitting in chair facing desk
Correctional Probation Officer Ron Mercer and probationer during an interview.

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