Articles Posted in Florida Jails

On Tuesday, April 7th, Kentucky Senator (and Dr.) Rand Paul announced that he’d like you to vote for him on November 8th of next year as he made official his candidacy for President of the United States.
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We know that one of the things that sets Paul apart from his official and presumptive competitors seeking the Republican nomination is his stance on prison reform; in particular, Sen. Paul has taken great issue with the overwhelmingly disproportionate rates at which minorities are incarcerated for non-violent crimes.

While Republican politicians tend to be less lenient when it comes to punishing drug offenders, Sen. Paul, guided by the same libertarian-minded philosophy that influenced his father, Fmr. Rep. Dr. Ron Paul, has taken a markedly progressive stance when it comes to an issue that is of great concern to our Pembroke Pines and Delray Beach drug crime defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert.
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Our Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach Gardens criminal defense lawyers are pleased that, yesterday, the Florida Senate (nearly unanimously) passed a new bill aimed at reducing beatings and corruption in our state’s deeply flawed and scandalous prison system.
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The bill, which passed on a resounding 36-1 vote, will alter current state law in two significant ways: first, it will remove the governor’s right to appoint a corrections secretary; second, it will allow for the creation of a commission with the ability to independently investigate reports of corruption and death in Florida prisons. Unfortunately, such reports have increased in recent months, as we’ve discussed.

As we know, the State of Florida has been taking a lot of heat about the scandals emanating from the prison system. Hopefully, this bill is indicative of forthcoming, positive changes.
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Yesterday, the Miami Herald reported on a topic of real significance to the criminal defense legal field: ubiquitous corruption throughout Florida’s prison system.
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Our Palm Beach and Broward County criminal defense lawyers know that jails and prisons are supposed to be places in which offenders are rehabilitated, where they’ve given a chance to reflect on what they’ve done and reform themselves prior to returning to free society.

However, as new reports from prison inspectors indicate, the so-called spaces of rehabilitation aren’t what they seem to be. According to new testimony, Florida’s prisons are riddled with gang violence, crime, medical neglect and inmate abuse.
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The Florida Supreme Court has halted the execution of a convicted murderer originally scheduled for tomorrow amid questions over whether or not the use of Florida’s lethal injection drugs amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.
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The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution explicitly prohibits the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment, meaning that if the use of such lethal drugs meets the standard of cruel and unusual punishment, using them as a method of execution would be unconstitutional.

Our Palm Beach and Broward County criminal defense lawyers know that the issue of lethal drug constitutionality is one that has made headlines across the country, most noticeably in recent months, after a series of botched executions have caused unimaginable suffering.
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As Palm Beach and Broward County criminal defense lawyers, we’re all too familiar with the unfortunate case of Marissa Alexander, the Florida woman thrown in prison for firing a warning shot in self-defense.
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Back in 2010, Ms. Alexander fired a warning shot near her estranged husband who had been threatening her (and had a history of domestic violence). Although nobody was injured, and because of archaic mandatory minimum gun laws, Ms. Alexander was sentenced to 20 years in prison — the jury deliberated for a mere 12 minutes.

For Ms. Alexander, the criminal justice system failed to deliver justice. It did prove effective in one significant way, however: it shed a light on the ugly reality that comes with mandatory minimum gun laws in the Sunshine State.
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It should come as no surprise to learn that Florida’s prison system is a mess, and by more than one measure. Incarceration rates are increasing as crime is decreasing, reports of torture emanate from our correctional facilities, living conditions are often unbearable, etc. — the list goes on.
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Our Palm Beach and Broward County criminal defense lawyers know that Florida’s 56 prisons, of which seven are private (more on this later), house more than 100,000 inmates at any given time. How we treat prisoners and would-be prisoners is not only a reflection on us as a state, but it runs the risk of reversing the slow-down in crime that Florida has witnessed.

There is a seemingly mechanical transition of offenders to prisons in Florida, and that process does very little in terms of “correction.” By tossing wayward Floridians in jail and locking the cell door, we are giving up the opportunity to truly correct and refine behavior.
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While U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has announced his agency’s intentions to scrap policies resulting in unnecessarily extensive federal prison terms, at the state level, it seems there is ample incentive to keep criminal sentences as long as possible.
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Our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers know that it comes down to – what else – money. Specifically, Florida, like a number of other states, has outsourced parts of its state prison system.

As the Huffington Post recently reported, these private contracts require that there be certain “lockup quotas” that must be met in order for these facilities to turn a profit. If a certain number of beds are not filled, the state (i.e., taxpayers) have to pay the prison company. That means taxpayers, in effect, must pay a premium for lower crime rates.
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Broward jail facilities are brimming, and as our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers understand, it may have a lot to with increases in arrests for everything from prostitution to robberies. cagedbird.jpg

What’s not entirely certain is whether that increase in Broward arrests is due to more crimes actually being committed or in more aggressive police tactics.

It’s probably a combination of both. On one hand, you’ve got a tanking economy, and this inevitably leads to more property crimes. You also in a recession are going to have greater rates of depression, which inevitably leads to more drug use and the multitude of crimes that accompany it.

But on the flip side, you’ve got high-cost police agencies that are constantly under scrutiny by local governments looking for ways to trim. If the department can justify their current annual budget by touting the number of arrests made (without regard for the strength of those case or subsequent convictions) they figure the better their chances of at least maintaining the status quo.

Then you factor in that jail stays are becoming longer, and there just might not be room at the Inn. An experienced defense attorney can often use jail crowding to your advantage in a number of ways. Getting reasonable bond, pre-trial release, and sentencing options my all be influenced by the number of jail beds available.

The trouble for the county is that it literally can not afford to go over capacity, which currently stands at 5,200. Overcrowding in Broward has been a problem for many years. A lawsuit filed by an inmate back in the late 1970s resulted in a federal crack down. Part of that was a federal consent decree – still in place today – that charges the county fines of $1,000 for every day that the jail is over its maximum capacity. It’s so strict that federal monitors check in weekly with the jail.

A county judge told the Sun-Sentinel that those federal monitors come to his courtroom at least once every single year and inquire as to why this inmate or that inmate wasn’t given bond.

And yet, jail stays are up an average of four days. The average cost to house an inmate stands at roughly $120, and they each stay for about 32 days. Compare that to last year, when 28 days was the average.

The jail’s current population this year is around 4,500. Last year, it was about 115 less, on average. In fact, it’s about 7 percent higher than where jail officials like to keep it, which is at 85 percent.

So what does this mean for you if you’ve been arrested in Fort Lauderdale?

First, it means that public defenders are going to be overworked and underpaid. If there’s any possibility of pooling resources and money to hire a private attorney, it’s going to be a worthwhile investment in your future.

Secondly, the attention the issue has garnered from first-appearance Judge John Hurley, who said he and his staff would work to lower jail population rates by reducing sentences for minor offenders or allowing them to leave with credit for time served.

This is certainly encouraging news, but there’s always sort of an ebb and flow to issues like this. Once it fades from the headlines, no doubt the numbers will inch up again.

That’s why you need an attorney committed to fighting to have your bond, charges and sentences reduced.
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Here in Broward County, the Sheriff’s Office has tabled its plans to close a jail wing in Pompano Beach. The closure plan would have reduced the office’s budget by $5 million; however it would have also pushed jail occupancy to 102 percent for which the county could be fined $1,000 a day for overcrowding. The original plan was reportedly created when jail occupancy was lower.

The Sheriff’s Office is continuing with the controversial demotion of 254 deputies who work in the jails and the elimination of a hot meal at work for jail employees. All employees will be subject to a wage freeze.

The union has fought this plan, but a special magistrate ruled in favor of the Sheriff, saying that public sector employees need to adjust their pay expectations.

Source: Broward sheriff won’t close Pompano jail wing, South Florida Sun Sentinel, September 5, 2010 Continue reading

Phone_calls.jpgOur South Florida criminal defense lawyers recently read that the Polk County Sheriff’s office is now recording telephone calls between prison inmates and their legal counsel. The calls can be used as evidence against them. The change went into effect on July 1. Before new policy, the Sheriff’s Office had recorded calls but exempted lawyer-client calls.

A recent decision by the Florida Supreme Court said inmates have no reasonable expectation of privacy if they know calls are being recorded. While the policy is in accordance with the law, some Florida attorneys worry that it could slow down the legal process, because they will need to visit clients in prison rather than handling questions over the phone.

Lawyers are still permitted to visit clients in private during face-to-face visits or discuss their cases through a secure videoconference link. Some worry that will take longer to resolve cases and that innocent people will be stuck in jail longer.

Source: Sheriff Says He Will Record Inmate Calls to Lawyers and Use Them as Evidence, TheLedger.com, June 21, 2010 Continue reading

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