REFORM Alliance: How is it Affecting Probation in Florida?

August 12, 2022 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements, Probation Violation

A collaboration between unlikely groups has just been formed in regard to a new law regarding Florida’s probation system. Rappers Jay-Z and Meek Mill have formed and funded the REFORM Alliance—a nonprofit seeking to reform probation procedures in the United States.

REFORM Alliance was formed in 2019 by Michael Rubin, rapper Meek Mill, and mogul Shawn “Jay Z” Carter. Rubin gave the following statement regarding how SB 752 will help people in Florida:

“This new law will help more than 150,000 on probation in Florida by removing barriers to their success and rewarding them for doing well. Not only was this unanimously supported by members of the Florida legislature, but probation officers, business owners, and community service providers all joined us in the effort to pass this new law. This is going to safely reduce the number of people on supervision, improve lives and increase community stability across the state.”

New Law’s Details

Senate Bill 752 has been signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, meaning its effective date is July 2022. Under the new law, individuals in Florida who are on parole, probation, or other forms of supervision will be granted new education and workforce options to shorten the term of their supervision. The educational courses will also help those who wish to seek out a GED, vocational certificate, or another degree.

There will now be the opportunity for those on probation to earn 30 days off their term for each six-month period that they work an average of 30 hours per week. For each educational activity completed, they can earn 60 days off their probationary period.

SB 752 also brings about the ability to remotely report to probation officers. Before, it was mandatory for individuals to meet face to face with their probation officer. This could be difficult for those without a vehicle or without the means to miss work or childcare.

Laura Arnold, one of the board members of REFORM Alliance mentioned COVID-19 as a driving force for the new regulations on remote reporting: “The COVID pandemic taught us all we can be very, very productive on Zoom and remotely. So why can we not extend that piece of knowledge to the probation and parole system?”

Shorter probation periods mean fewer monthly fees, which have consistently been an issue. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, individuals who are on probation are much more likely to be low-income.

Statistics on Probation

Since REFORM Alliance formed back in 2019, it has helped pass various bills across nine states including New York, Virginia, Georgia, Mississippi, and now Florida. Out of 6.6 million individuals who were in the U.S. criminal justice system, 4.5 million were on parole, probation, or another form of supervision. According to REFORM, at least 40% of those individuals on probation were convicted of relatively minor offenses, and 75% were for nonviolent offenses.

Key data from the Prison Policy Initiative found the following:

  • 66% of individuals on probation make less than $20,000 per year
  • 38% of individuals on probation make less than $10,000 per year, which is far below the line of poverty
  • 28% of individuals on probation make at least $50,000 per year, and only 9% make over $50,000 per year

The following is a list of potential costs someone may have to pay while on probation, parole, or other forms of supervision:

  • Court fees
  • Monthly supervision fees
  • Electronic monitoring fees
  • One-time fees

The danger of excessive probationary fees is dire considering those who do not pay such fees are at risk to go back to jail. The Supreme Court has said before that it is unconstitutional to place someone in jail for not having the money to pay fines and fees ordered by the court. However, it still happens. If a judge looks at the willingness to pay instead of the financial ability to pay, they may treat someone not paying their fees as a valid violation of parole.

For instance, Wayne B. learned he owed a total of $14,000 of debt after being released from prison. He was ordered to pay a monthly fee of $388 for the terms of his condition. Although he informed his probation officer that he was unable to make the monthly payment, he was unable to find an attorney to assist him in reducing his payments.

Mr. B filed a motion to convert his debt into a civil lien, meaning it would become a civil issue rather than affecting his probation terms, however it was denied. When he was interviewed Mr. B. explained his fear for violating his probation and getting an extended period or returning to jail.  

In a report on The Hidden Costs of Florida’s Criminal Justice Fees, it explains that a violation of parole occurs when a person fails to pay their court-ordered payments by the end of the entire probation period. If the judge finds that the failure to pay was willful, he or she can extend the probation period or even sentence the person to additional imprisonment.

In Florida, around $212 million is spent each year on the supervision system for those convicted of crimes. Out of all of the United States, Florida has the fifth highest probation population.

REFORM worked with organizations such as the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, Police Benevolent Association, Americans for Prosperity, American Conservative Union, and Operation New Hope to try and improve the state’s legislation on probation. The goal was to shorten the terms of probation, as well as improving the success rates for those who are on probation.

SB 752 received unanimous votes from both the House and Senate, and was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis on June 3rd, 2022.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

Newly passed SB 752 is set to provide an immense amount of help to those in Florida who are on probation. However, avoiding any kind of sentence, supervisory or otherwise, is always the best option. If you or a loved one have been accused of a crime, you should prioritize seeking out the help of a skilled Florida criminal defense attorney in your area. Getting arrested for a criminal offense can be extremely stressful, and a conviction can lead to expensive fines and jail time. Working with an experienced attorney is the best way to build a strong defense to your case. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have experience representing clients across the state, and vow to fight for your freedom. For a free consultation call (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message today.

Written by Karissa Key

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