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The men in purple T-shirts, who had come through the Corrections Transition Program, were at the Florida Commission on Offender Review meeting to support a fellow parolee, Donald Freeman. Photo: Deirdra Funcheon

Part 3 of 3

By Deirdra Funcheon, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

BRADENTON, Fla. —While most Florida Commission on Offender Review decisions are made during hearings without the inmate present, parolees whose supervision terms are being reviewed sometimes do show up in person.

Five of the 33 cases being considered during a hearing on Oct. 9 related to inmates who were already out on parole. Parole in Florida  is considered an act of grace by the state, not a right. According to state rules, parolees are not allowed to possess firearms or ammunition, use drugs or alcohol, or even “enter any business establishment whose primary purpose is the sale/consumption of alcoholic beverages.”


Inmate Cheryl Weimar was left a quadriplegic for life, allegedly after being beaten by prison guards. She is at Florida Women’s Reception Center in Ocala on Nov. 21, 2019.  Photo:
Public Access to Court Electronic Records

Part 2 of 3

By Deirdra Funcheon, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

BRADENTON, Fla. —Criminal justice reformers say that letting very sick inmates out of prison early would be a sensible way to relieve pressure on Florida’s overburdened corrections system, and on taxpayers, who will pony up nearly half a billion dollars in 2020 for prisoners’ health care.

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.