CPSS Carmen Gonzalez and CPSS Patricia Nelson, along with two young men who voluntarily participated in the CHOICES program, sit with the caring circle of inmates.
CHOICES Program Involves Inmates Warning Probationers About Where Their Choices Can Lead
The CHOICES Program, a partnership between Community Corrections in Circuit 11 and Everglades Correctional Institution has continued to be a successful re-entry initiative. What began as an idea has continued monthly and benefited the inmates, probationers and staff who participate.
Senior Supervisors Nelson and Gonzalez developed this program after being guest speakers at a re-entry program at the institution for lifers. They were impressed with the impact the inmates might have, if given the opportunity to talk with young offenders under community supervision. They believe that the young offenders needed more mentoring, guidance and positive attention.
A total of 76 young offenders have participated in the program and after reading some of their letters, you know that the whole experience has helped them see that their negative choices have taken them on the wrong path and that they can turn their lives around with the support of their families and their probation officers.
One young man stated, "Now every time I am tempted to go back to that lifestyle, I think of everything I have to lose. One choice can affect you and others forever."
Another stated, "The prisoners made me realize how one mistake can ruin your whole life and I thank them all for sharing their stories and opening my eyes more."
And another commented, "It made me think about my life and the people that love me and I didn't want to hurt them by my choice."
Circuit 11 is proud of the CHOICES re-entry program; it is focused on our mission and is making a positive difference in these young men's lives.
"Now every time I am tempted to go back to that lifestyle, I think of everything I have to lose. One choice can affect you and others forever."
Sarasota Probation Teams with Local Law Enforcement
The Sarasota County Fair is held annually during the month of March. Circuit 12 has worked the Fair since 2000 alongside the local police and sheriff's departments, looking for offenders and assisting with lost children. This year the Regional Multi-Agency Gang Task Force (MAGTF) participated as well. Throughout the years Probation Officers have found numerous sex offender probationers and community controlees at the fair. All are either removed from the property or arrested on violations.
This year Officers R. Broecker, D. Cell, D. Dear, K. Duff, D. Dunlop, S. Groeteke, M. Hall, P. Howard, M. Monetti, M. Olivari, and E. Peterson worked the fair by patrolling the fair grounds. Working in shifts over the two weekends of the fair, Probation Officers helped Law Enforcement maintain order during the nighttime hours. Numerous current and past offender contacts were made. One offender was arrested on new charges.
There were also several gang contacts and thanks to the coverage and teamwork the hierarchy of a local gang was discovered. This information is invaluable to law enforcement. Members of MAGTF are from every county in the region, and they stated on several occasions how valuable probation officers were during this event, noting that without the probation officers, they would not have been able to identify the offenders who should not have been on the grounds. The sex offenders especially would not have been indentified and therefore posed a threat to the community. Their removal made the fair a safer place for everyone. This has been a great event throughout the years and Sarasota County Fair Board is very grateful the Probation Officers of Circuit 12 help make the event a safer place for the community every year.
Riverview Probation Office Hosts Second Annual Resource Fair
On March 29, 2011, Probation Officers with the Riverview Probation Office partnered with local businesses, health care providers, educational institutions and community resource organizations to host a resource fair in an effort to assist Hillsborough County offenders on felony supervision. The event was held outside at the Twin Oaks Plaza parking lot of the 13-2 Riverview Probation Office. The event was also open to the public to showcase the efforts and duties of Community Corrections as well as to gain more partnerships for the Department of Corrections' Re-Entry effort. Music and entertainment was provided by a local band that donated their time for the event. The following agencies partnered with the Department of Corrections to make the 13-2 Riverview Probation Resource Fair a success:
Panama City P&P: Making Our Communities Safer through Partnerships
Based upon Department of Agriculture concealed weapon permit information, a home visit was made to a registered sex offender who was sentenced to community control for Failure to Maintain Sex Offender Registration. CPSO-CC Charles Smith accompanied by CPS Mike Renaldo and CPSO Tim Quinn conducted a warrantless planned search of the offender's residence. The search revealed 280 rounds of rifle ammunition, 9mm and .22 ammunition, 12 gauge shot gun shells, a drum magazine for an AK-47/SKS assault rifle, a 12 gauge flare pistol, manuals to convert semi-automatic weapons to fully automatic, how to manufacture suppressors, "booby" traps and improvised munitions, as well as casings and components for a number of hand grenades.
CPS Mark Chambers and CPO Kenny Thaxton were contacted to assist with the search and discovered hundreds of prescription medications in unmarked containers, bottles with the names of other individuals along with large amounts of oral testosterone and hypodermic needles. The Bay County Sheriff's Office Narcotics and Bomb Unit were contacted to assist after a bucket containing 10 sticks of Class II high explosives was located. The local fire department and Hazardous- Materials Team responded, evacuating and securing the area. After obtaining a search warrant, deputies removed the explosives and also discovered 40 to 50 detonators and another bucket containing a binary explosive mixture. All explosives were removed and detonated off site.
A warrantless arrest was conducted on the offender charging him with Possession of Controlled Substances, Possession of Destructive Devices and Violation of Community Control. A number of additional state and federal charges are pending. This event is a prime example of the potential for extreme danger offenders we supervise present to our staff and the public with no prior warning. As a result of this search, probation officers were able to discover and help defuse a situation that posed life threatening danger not only to themselves but to the families in the neighborhood surrounding this offender.
IN LESS THAN A MONTH, three Probationary Officers completed Warrantless Planned Searches resulting in the discovery of:
Palm Beach County
In 2010, the Palm Beach County Criminal Justice Commission was awarded a $750,000 "Second Chance" grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. The funds are being used in partnership with the Department of Corrections to coordinate pre and post release re-entry services for inmates. This partnership was established to reduce recidivism in a targeted population by 50% through evidence-based practices. Sago Palm Re-Entry Facility is the designated facility in Palm Beach County for inmates with three years or less on their sentences who would be returning to Palm Beach county upon release. While there, inmates will have access to comprehensive programs and services to assist them in their transition from prison back into the community.