Friday, April 12, 2013

Top Resignations at the Orange County, FL Jail

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs held a press conference yesterday to announce the release of two internal reports regarding the investigation in to the suspended Home Confinement program at the jail and the overall Community Corrections Division.

She also announced that Deputy Chief Jill Hobbs and Corrections Chief Michael Tidwell have tendered their resignations coinciding with the release of the internal reports.  Chief Tidwell will remain temporarily to transition to new leadership.

Both internal investigations focused on the actions and practices of the Home Confinement program and the results of both reports indicate that there were violations of the jail's policies and procedures regarding the program.

The internal reports found that practices within the Home Confinement program were accepted/condoned by the Unit supervisor, all of which failed to address the various warning flags particularly in the Bessman Okafor case.  In Okafor's case one of the internal reports found that:
  • Staff failed to address nighttime and weekend alerts in a timely manner or at times not addressing them at all;
  • Staff failed to conduct administrative hearings when excessive violations occurred;
  • Staff were instructed by the Unit supervisor to minimize the number of administrative hearings and to reduce revocations to 'keep the numbers up' regarding caseloads;
  • Staff failed to ever confirm with the defendant's phone provider that phone problems created alerts as claimed by the defendant;
  • Staff failed to file an order to revoke Okafor's release when he committed a new offense for a failure to appear in Polk County in August 2012, stating that active warrants are not considered to be a new offense; and
  • The Unit supervisor agreeing that staff were not handling excessive alerts in accordance with policy yet giving these same staff continuous 100 percent accuracy ratings during monthly audits.
As a result of the internal investigations, two Senior Community Corrections Officers, the Unit supervisor and the Deputy Chief of Corrections were found to have committed numerous policy violations.

Per Mayor Jacobs, these individuals and any others who are alleged to have violated or ignored policies and procedures will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.

Mayor Jacob stressed her deep commitment to public safety and stated she has assured Chief Judge Belvin Perry, Jr. that the Orange County Jail will have space to house anyone who might be a threat to our community.

We are glad to hear that the county is working with the judiciary to establish a framework to determine who should be eligible for pretrial supervision at the taxpayer's expense.  

A fact that cannot be changed: bad people will continue to do bad things.  We cannot always change or stop that.  

What we can do is work more closely as partners in the criminal justice system.  Community supervision is a tool just as a bail bond is a tool to hold perpetrators accountable.  Just as bail agents must assess the risk of a defendant to determine the posting of bond, anyone released in to a community supervision program must have a thorough risk assessment as well.  And those individuals charged with any responsibility for that defendant must do their job effectively.

Commercial bail ensures appearance of a defendant at court and saves taxpayers millions of dollars annually.  We would welcome the opportunity to partner with the county and the courts in a team effort to promote public safety and the wise use of taxpayer dollars.  

It will be a new day at Orange County Corrections and a refreshing one.

1 comment:

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