A Florida sheriff’s office on Monday defended an ongoing initiative that sends letters to certain “prolific offenders” in the community informing them that they have been selected to participate in a program designed to offer them “enhanced support and increased accountability,” with the ultimate goal of empowering people with criminal histories to live “lawful, productive and fulfilled lives.” 

Individuals are enrolled in the Prolific Offender Program, run by the Pasco Sheriff’s Office in cooperation with the Department of Justice Strategies for Policing Innovation Initiative, based on an evaluation of criminal behavior “using an unbiased, evidence-based risk assessment designed to identify prolific offenders” in the community, Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said in a letter for the program first written in January. 

“As a result of this designation, we will go to great efforts to encourage change in your life through enhanced support and increased accountability,” the letter says, explaining that recipients will be removed from the program if they refrain from criminal activity over the next two years. “It is our hope you will actively pursue change by seeking and participating in the services and support you will have access to… Although help is available, you are the one who must decide whether or not you will pursue change and accept the help being offered.”

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The chief also warned criminal offenders, “Our desire to help you will not hinder us from holding you fully accountable for your choices and actions.” 

“This letter was designed to communicate our sincere desire to help you begin a new path. We are committed to your success,” Nocco told those selected for the program. “We are also committed to pursuing consistent, firm, and fair consequences if you choose to continue in the criminal behavior that is hurtful not only to you, but to your family and our community.” 

A spokesman for the sheriff’s office told Fox News on Monday that the prolific offender program is focused on adult violent and narcotics prolific offenders and is part of an academic research grant through the University of South Florida and the Department of Justice. It is a “completely separate” program within the Intelligence-Led Policing Section, the spokesman said, from a different initiative within the Pasco County School District scaled back months ago, which the Tampa Bay Times reported had used students’ grades, attendance records and abuse histories to determine the likelihood they would become criminals in the future. 

Furthermore, the Times reported last week on renewed criticism about the prolific offenders program from advocates now arguing that the letter is “patronizing,” “threatening” and promises “harassment” from deputies. 

“This type of academic research effort, through focused deterrence, has been well established and documented to reduce crimes in communities,” Pasco Sheriff’s Office Executive Director Chase Daniels said to Fox News via email Monday, defending the prolific offenders program, before taking aim at the newspaper. “We believe the Times, as they have done continually, is conflating several different programs and initiatives in the Pasco Sheriff’s Office to fit a narrative which does not exist… We have strong disagreements with their reporting.” 

The letter, which Daniels said is handed directly to those selected, also informs individuals that their names and criminal history will be shared with local, state and federal law enforcement entities and prosecutors, including the local state attorney’s office; the U.S. attorney’s office; the Florida Department of Law Enforcement; Parole and Probation; FBI; Homeland Security; ATF; DEA and “other entities who have the ability to ensure the highest level of accountability for all current and future criminal acts you commit.”

The program offers criminal offenders the “opportunity to receive assistance from the Pasco Sheriff’s Office and several community partners who will work with you to identify and overcome barriers that have hindered you in your life’s journey,” Nocco wrote. The letter explains research indicates that barriers to successful living may involve struggles with mental health, substance abuse, domestic violence, homelessness, finding a job or several other challenges many people face on a daily basis.

If recipients have experienced these barriers, the letters says, “the Pasco Sheriff’s Office is committed to support you in overcoming these challenges through this program.” It notes that the sheriff’s office partners with human resources and includes a quick resource guide with the contact information for 18 government agencies, health clinics and nonprofit organizations to address child care, housing, drug and alcohol addiction, legal help, domestic violence, behavioral health and therapy options and more. 

The Times also reported that deputies have shown up at the homes of individuals targeted on the intelligence lists at all hours and have sometimes written tickets for minor infractions like overgrown grass. 

“It is so incredibly patronizing and offensive on so many levels,” Bacardi Jackson, Florida managing attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told the Times, referring to the prolific offenders program. 

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“We know that is not what makes people or communities more safe, this heightened level of surveillance,” Lauren Johnson, an assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, added. 

Raniah Elgendi, of the Council of American-Islamic Relations-Florida, told the newspaper that the letter is “basically threatening and promising a certain level of harassment and oversight that is in line with the stories we are hearing from the community.” 

The newspaper reported that the sheriff’s office is being sued in federal court by four people related to those tactics – but Daniels did not address the litigation when asked by Fox News on Monday. 

Source Link:
https://www.foxnews.com/us/florida-sheriff-office-letter-prolific-offenders-accountability-crime

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