Charlotte Co. (FL) to introduce alternative sanctions
“If you’re on probation and let’s just say it’s a technical violation or testing positive for marijuana, you’re going to get arrested,” said local defense attorney Steven Leskovich. “There’s no bond on your warrant. Now you’ve lost your job because you are incarcerated. You may not be able to pay bills, child support. In a matter of two to three weeks, it can disrupt an entire family unit.”
But soon, the Department of Corrections plans to change the way it handles these types of violations. Under a new alternative sanctions program, offenders would face consequences that don’t involve an arrest or jail time.
“Alternative sanctions give offenders who have violated the technical terms of their supervision help for the underlying issues causing them to recidivate, rather than just sending them straight back to jail or prison,” said DOC Deputy Press Secretary Paul Walker. “A technical violation could be a positive drug test, in which an offender may have the option of drug treatment in lieu of a ticket back to jail.”
It’s not clear exactly when the program will be in place, though Walker said the chief judge has given approval for the program to be implemented throughout the 20th Judicial Circuit, which includes Charlotte, Lee, Collier, Hendry, and Glades counties. As soon as an administrative order authorizing the program is prepared and signed, it will begin.
“Chief Judge Michael T. McHugh recognizes the value of an alternative sanctioning program for technical violations of probation and community control,” said Sara Miles, spokesperson for the 20th Judicial Circuit. “The AOC (Administrative Office of the Courts) anticipates an Administrative Order being entered in the near future which will authorize the DOC to utilize this program.”
Sixteen of the 20 circuits in Florida are currently using the program, including 49 of 67 counties.
In the 12th Judicial Circuit, which includes Sarasota, DeSoto, and Manatee counties, the administrative order authorizing the program states “arresting and incarcerating certain non-violent offenders for minor violations of probation or community control is both expensive and nonproductive,” and “there is research to support that recidivism may be reduced by utilizing collaborative efforts among the courts, probation and law enforcement to hold the offender accountable and apply swift and certain sanctions for technical violations of probation or community control.”