Friday, September 25, 2009

Citizen Input on Pretrial Release Program Ignored

County Commissioners passed a $3.1 B budget last night, which includes over $148 M for the Corrections Department. The Pretrial Release program was held harmless despite input from thousands of citizens based on a mailer sent by Accredited stating that they do not want their tax funds spent to release and supervise defendants charged with serious offenses.

Several speakers from the private surety bail industry were in attendance to try to educate the Mayor and Commissioners on the differences between the Pretrial Release program and the level of supervision bail agents provide at no taxpayer expense . . . but our comments were in vain. Despite the serious offenses defendants are being released on without any judicial involvement, the Mayor and Commissioners simply took the advice from county attorney Tom Drage, who stated the county is, "following the law and doing the best they can; to do otherwise would be in violation of the constitution, statute and the administrative order issued by Judge Perry."

While Judge Perry's administrative order has a provision to delegate judicial authority to the jail chief to release individuals from jail, the Mayor and Board of County Commissioners are CHOOSING to use your taxpayer funds to do so. They have the option of telling Judge Perry that limited taxpayer funds should only be used to do a thorough investigative process into a defendant's background for a meaningful initial appearance.

If the Judges wish to then release defendants charged with serious offenses on non-monetary conditions, then they have the judicial discretion to release those defendants on their own recognizance. No where in statute does it state taxpayer funds have to be used to release defendants on non-monetary conditions!

It is not a provision of the law but a public policy decision to use taxpayer funds to supervise defendants released from jail. The Orange County jail is not overcrowded! It is running at 90 percent occupancy yet the public policy decision is still to use taxpayer funds for this purpose.

At Tuesday's Board of County Commissioners meeting, an addendum agenda item was added for the jail to make a presentation on the Pretrial Release program. Yet at last night's public hearing the Mayor was somewhat irritated that the private surety bail industry was in attendance to speak on an issue that, "had already been discussed at length." However, that was a one-sided discussion without the industry afforded the opportunity to comment. The Mayor's comment set the stage, at least from his perspective, that anything we had to say was mute. Based on statistics given by the jail, the Mayor's opinion is that the private surety bail industry is, "fighting for a little sliver of seven percent of defendant's released through the pretrial release program," and pretty much wasting the board's time expressing our views.

Thanks to Commissioner Fernandez who recommended that the Pretrial Release program undergo an independent audit. Let's see how long that takes to happen!


  1. I would like to learn more about this topic and situation and why my tax dollars are being spent this way. I will call your office to speak with you.

  2. If the tax dollars are hard at work and all is well, though use of taxpayer monies flies in the face of Fl statutes and common historical practice, Why the change? Why the adamant nature of the refusal?
    This points to concealment. There is suddenly no Sunshine For the Dog?