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News from Tallahassee for 3/9/14
6 charged in prison escape plot posted on 12/20/13
by BILL COTTERELL | Current
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced six arrests Thursday in the escape of two convicted killers who used forged sentence-reduction papers last summer to walk away from life sentences at a Panhandle prison.
FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey said a forger who once conned his way out of the Pinellas County jail for about 18 hours with fake documents was the kingpin of the prison conspiracy that briefly sprung Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker in late August and early September. Both men were recaptured Oct. 19 at a Panama City Beach motel while awaiting a car from Atlanta that police said was to have taken them out of the area.
Bailey and FDLE Orlando Agent in Charge Danny Banks said Willie Slater, a former inmate on the outside whose brother had been killed by Jenkins, assisted in the plot because Jenkins had falsely submitted an affidavit that got him out of prison on a home-invasion robbery and assault case. Bailey said Nydeed Nashaddai, a forger serving 20 years for the Pinellas escape, ran the operation -- using prison library computers, printers and the "legal mail" that is not inspected by guards, usually used to communicate with lawyers.
Bailey said inmate Jeffrey Forbes and former prisoner Terrance Goodman of Panama City also were arrested in the case. He emphasized that the investigation is still open and more charges or added suspects are possible.
Sheriff Enlists Legislative Help To Crack Down On Growing Problem: ‘Pillowcase Burglars’ posted on 12/19/13
by Sascha Cordner | WFSU
A Florida lawmaker has filed a bill that would make it a separate offense for anyone to travel to another county to commit a felony offense, like burglary or trafficking. It sprang out of what some say is a growing problem in several areas of the state: “Pillowcase Burglars.”
“We have this phenomena here in Martin County, and most counties in the state of Florida have this as well. And, that is we have traveling burglars that have been dubbed ‘the pillowcase burglars’ because they break into houses near interstates and ransack the house for small valuables, such as guns, jewelry, and cash, and put the items in a pillowcase and then leave,” said Martin County Sheriff William Snyder.
The former state lawmaker says most of the about 60 burglars his county has arrested recently have trekked from Broward County to Martin County. And, once they leave their home and travel into another county to commit a crime, Snyder says traditional law enforcement methods become less effective as authorities try to capture them…
Prison system opens 're-entry' center posted on 12/18/13
by BILL COTTERELL | Current
HAVANA -- The head of Florida's prison system ran the numbers Tuesday on how a new approach to inmate "re-entry" will save taxpayers money by breaking the cycle of crime and punishment, then said the initiative would be worthwhile even without the fiscal considerations.
"It does save money," Department of Corrections Secretary Michael Crews said at an opening ceremony for the Gadsden Re-Entry Center. "But we're doing it because it's fundamentally and morally the right thing to do."
The $17 million medium-security prison about 15 miles west of Tallahassee, which has 432 beds and a staff of 92, will start accepting men in the final three years of their prison sentences early next month. Located on 47 acres adjoining the Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy, the facility is the first in Florida dedicated entirely to preparing inmates to rejoin society -- with services ranging from literacy and job skills to parenting and anger management.
FDLE nears 1 million background checks for firearm sales posted on 12/17/13
by JIM Turner | NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
The gift of a gun may be high on many Floridians' holiday shopping lists.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement says it is on target to conduct nearly 1 million background checks this year on private firearm purchases. The projection comes as the department is reporting a record number of reviews conducted over the Thanksgiving weekend that typically kicks off the year-end holiday shopping season.
“We have definitely seen an increase in the number of background checks over the past several years,” FDLE spokeswoman Samantha Andrews said Monday. “You can see November and December are relatively larger” for sales.
Andrews declined to speculate on the reason for the increase and said the checks are conducted only on the individuals making purchases.
National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer said that in addition to buying firearms as gifts, guns sales have grown due to the improved economy and an effort by merchants to move stock by offering enticing holiday sales.
“I think it's a combination of people wanting to take advantage of sales as well as the gift giving,” Hammer said. “The retailers I talked to ... they feel the economy may be starting to recover, or people are relaxing a little more, and are starting to turn loose some of the money they were reluctant to spend. And it's that time of year.”
The FDLE recorded approximately 823,000 checks on firearms purchases as of Dec. 15, of which about 40,000 were from December. Last December, the department recorded more than 110,000 checks.
The 2013 number already surpasses the 797,000 background checks conducted in 2012. There were roughly 610,000 checks conducted in 2011.
Each check includes criminal history and mental-health database reviews.
Times can fluctuate depending upon demand, but the agency aims for a 4 minute turn-around when a check is conducted by a dealer over the phone, Andrews said.
The check can also be done online.
Fewer than 6 percent of the checks result in a sale being denied, Andrews said.
There were nearly 13,500 checks conducted the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving, up from 13,200 during the same period a year earlier.
Because of the growing number of background checks, the FDLE has requested 18 new employees during the next budget year to help complete the requests in the firearms purchase program, while another 18 employees already doing the quick checks under an “other personal services” temporary designation could be shifted into full-time positions.
The requests are part of a $19 million increase proposed to the FDLE's $269 million budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year.
Judge orders kosher meals at state prisons posted on 12/17/13
by BRANDON LARRABEE | News Service of Florida
TALLAHASSEE -- A federal judge has ordered the Florida Department of Corrections to offer kosher meals to "all prisoners with a sincere religious basis for keeping kosher" by July 1.
The little-noticed ruling, signed Dec. 5, grants the U.S. Department of Justice a preliminary injunction forcing the state agency to offer kosher meals and to drop some of the restrictions on a kosher program at one state facility.
"Injunctive relief is necessary to prevent irreparable harm to hundreds of Florida prisoners who believe that keeping kosher is an important part of their religious beliefs," wrote U.S. District Court Judge Patricia Seitz in her decision.
The lawsuit concerns the state's Religious Diet Program, or RDP, currently in place only at Union Correctional Institution. According to Seitz's ruling, the state has continuously changed its timeframe for expanding the program, first saying it would be available statewide this year, then saying kosher meals would be available at five institutions next month, and then announcing an implementation date for just three of those locations.
The state has also maintained that it is not required to offer kosher meals under federal laws protecting religious liberty.
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