The criminal justice system has been the subject of several conversations lately at meetings of the Escambia County Commission. We play a small role locally; we run the jail and have the road camp. We also have a corrections department that supervises prisoners in our jail, and we have county probation officers that supervise released offenders from the county court.
But the lion’s share of the criminal justice “system” takes place in the community and involves others--the courts, the sheriff’s office, and those involved in the system (judges, prosecuting attorneys, defense attorneys, victims, and the accused)
So we have topically discussed ways we can help the system. Some commissioners believe that generational poverty combined with diminished employment opportunities for some in the area is the biggest issue contributing to the high crime rate. Others think that engaging the youth of the community is a key-and I don’t disagree with this. But more important than engaging the community or anything else for that matter, I believe that focusing on rebuilding families is a must; strong families make strong communities. And those that minimize the drug problem locally and its impact on violent crime are naïve—there is a huge drug problem locally that generates lots of crime, lots of violence, and lots of murders. I know this first hand as a 10 year school board member who has seen lots of classified files on students who found themselves involved in drugs and crimes—many of whom were expelled from school for these transgressions. I know the violence that goes part and parcel with the illegal drug trade because I talk to people intimately familiar with the system and the cases. Drugs and the drug trade go hand in hand with violence, and many that deal in drugs locally end up dead. Others end up in the criminal justice system.
So how do we make the system better--how do we as County Commissioners help stop the carnage?
This question will be a tough one to answer. But even strong families with parents that have good jobs sometimes have children that end up in the system, as is the case of the following individual that I’m going to describe. Here is a story from the criminal justice system locally that describes the violence associated with the illegal drug trade in Escambia County.
Recently, a story involving one man from a middle class family made news. Now, this individual at age 35 had racked up dozens of charges and he had been incarcerated prior to his latest arrest—despite the fact that his father had a good job as a department head with a local
government agency. This person was described in the paper as a known “gang member.” This person has now been arrested for murdering another individual out in Beulah, out near where I live. This person was out on bail for serious charges, including drug and weapons possession charges, when he was involved in this murder for which he was arrested, a murder that many associated with the crime have characterized as a drug deal gone bad.Who was his victim?
Well, the victim in this instance had a lengthy criminal record himself, lots of charges, traffic infractions, weapons possessions, drug possession, several of which were not prosecuted. He had recently been convicted of a felony and sentenced to a long stretch in State prison by a local conservative Circuit Court Judge. Once convicted and sentenced, he did what many other prisoners that have been convicted and sentenced do. He filed a “3850” (Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure 3.850) and received a new trial from a local Liberal Circuit Court judge. The “hail Mary” pass was caught in the end-zone and this prisoner was granted a new trial. At the new trial, this individual was, inexplicably, found to be not guilty, and he was released.
Fast forward just a few weeks from his release and his second chance at getting his life on track, and this individual was (allegedly) back dealing in drugs again.
And then he crossed paths with the 35 year-old known gang member from a middle class family.
What happened next?
The prisoner who won his release on the 3.850 ended up dead in a ditch on the side of a road out in the country. And the 35 year old known drug dealer from a middle class family is back in jail. This time for murder.
It’s such a sad story, yet the media locally didn’t scratch the surface with their topical coverage.
The liberal media have no problem excoriating conservative judges who lecture probation violators, even when such judges give offenders that show promise a second chance.
But the liberal media won’t look at this real life story that just happened right here in Pensacola-a story of how a fellow liberal, this one a judge, found a way to give a prisoner a second trial leading to this prisoners’ eventual release. Sadly, this individual who was so fortunate to be released apparently could not overcome his criminal ways, and sadly he ended up dead on the side of a bucolic country road.