parole: 2 men, 2 women sit at table on low platform facing audience, giant sign that says sheriff at left
The Florida Commission on Offender Review meets about 36 times a year.
Photo by Deirdra Funcheon

Part 1 of 3

By Deirdra Funcheon, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

BRADENTON, Fla. — Inside a carpeted room at the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, an audience of about 75 settled into rows of banquet chairs. In the center of the room was a table, topped with microphones and a box of tissues that would be plucked from liberally over the next few hours.

Here, family members, crime victims, lawyers and police would step up and speak either for or against a particular offender being returned to society. At the front of the room sat the three Florida officials who would debate a score and make such decisions right there on the spot, not unlike an episode of “American Idol,” though far more somber.