Not Just Ferguson, Missouri: Florida’s First Judicial District–Second Judicial Circuit –Funding for Florida’s Prison System is a Far Cry From a ‘Charitable’ Organization—Senator Don Gaetz

Tallahassee, FL—Recently the Miami Herald published an article titled, ‘The ‘cannibalizing’ of Florida’s Prison System,’ by writer Mary Ellen Klas. The article outlines how Florida prison system became so dysfunctional. In the article, Florida Senator Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican, is said to have ‘pushed to privatize state prisons, acknowledges prison funding is not politically popular.’ In addition, Senator Gaetz, is quoted to have said, “It’s awfully hard to advocate for more money for prisons. They’re not my favorite charity. It’s not going to get you any votes, but it is a government responsibility to put bad people away.” “They’re not my favorite charity.” “…but it is a government responsibility to put bad people away” There are thousands of men and women who work for Florida’s Jails and Prison System. Most of these men and women go through extensive training both physically and mentally in order to perform their jobs. Part of their correctional officer training consists of keeping themselves, their co-workers and inmates safe in a sometimes dangerous and chaotic—and most recently reported to the public—a deteriorating environment. Some of these correctional officers have notified the public of their fear for their lives and fear of losing their jobs due to their knowledge of abuse against inmates. Surely, correctional officers and their family members—who every day have to wonder whether or not if their loved one is going to make it home from work—don’t see the use of the word ‘charity’ as a means of providing a safe and healthy work environment. In 2008, when Senator Don Gaetz 26-year-old son, Matt Gaetz was charged with Driving Under Influence, the law enforcement officer who stopped Matt Gaetz did not do so believing that he was going to possibly send a “bad person” to a ‘charitable’ organization. The law enforcement officer was doing his job. It was reported at the time of Matt Gaetz being pulled over, he was driving his dad’s BMW. While Senator Don Gaetz may have seen allowing his son to drive his BMW as a charity (let’s face it—no one working for a Florida Prison is driving a BMW)—the use of the word ‘charity’ when discussing a financial obligation to provide a safe work environment just underscores the distorted perspective that government officials in Florida suffer when it comes to doing the right thing. The law enforcement officers who processed Mr. Matt Gaetz should be applauded for exercising their training—they just may have saved his life and the lives of others. There are a lot of people who don’t have political connections that are housed in Florida Prisons who have unintentionally caused the death of a family member or members, or a close friend or friends, or a stranger or strangers—while driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. In 2014, Tampa Bay Times published an article, ‘Lawmaker’s talk of mug shot raises questions about DUI arrest,’ written by Michael Van Sickler. In the article, Rep. Matt Gaetz, who is a lawyer and now a state representative is quoted to have said, “I made bad decisions that resulted in an arrest, and that is sort of something that we all live with.” Many Floridians believe that Rep. Matt Gaetz political connections are what helped prevent him from being convicted—Rep. Matt Gaetz bad decision that resulted in his arrest made him a bad person—that night. “…something that we all live with.” In 2002, then Governor Jeb Bush and his wife, Columba, were forced to repeatedly endure their 25-year-old daughter, Noelle, commit one criminal act after another. Noelle was charged with trying to buy drugs with a fraudulent prescription and it was reported that Noelle had possession of crack cocaine while she was in a drug treatment center. Eventually Noelle had to spend 10 days in jail. Jail facilities are steps toward prison facilities. Unlike Rep. Matt Gaetz and Noelle, some people who go through jails are completely INNOCENT. The only bad decision that they made was putting trust in the judicial system. It not always guilt that sends people to prison—it’s more like people who lack political connections. Not all inmates or members of their families are looking for charity from Florida government officials. In most cases, the only request that they have of Florida government officials is to uphold Florida Sunshine Laws and the United States Constitution. It’s unfortunate that such simple requests from defendants/inmates and their family members seems so simple, yet government officials struggle to abide by the requests and then struggle and complain about the government’s financial obligations to render it safe for inmates and correctional officers. Once again, according to the Miami Herald article, it states, “The prisons run by private companies have contracts that guarantee them a ninety (90) percent occupancy rate, pay them per inmate, per day, and allow them to charge more for extra services and programs. Two private-run Blackwater River Correctional Facilities in Santa Rosa County and Graceville Correctional in Jackson County.” (Note: these two facilities are located in Florida’s panhandle.) In the DUI case against Rep. Matt Gaetz, as Tampa Bay Times states, “…the prosecutor asked to be taken off of the case because his stepson was a friend of Matt Gaetz.” Fast-forward a few years, move over to a neighboring judicial circuit in the panhandle—to the Second Judicial Circuit—and a ninety percent occupancy rate in two prisons in Florida’s panhandle could be like a walk in the park for Second Circuit State Attorney Willie Meggs and his assistant state attorneys who operate in Tallahassee—Leon County. Second Circuit State Attorney Willie Meggs is responsible for six counties all located in Florida’s panhandle. Seemingly, over the years, State Attorney Willie Meggs doesn’t bat an eye when it comes to assigning his protégé, Assistant State Attorney John “Jack” Campbell to prosecute criminal cases that his father, Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell has investigating jurisdiction. Many of Sheriff Larry Campbell (recently deceased) has deputies who are about in the same forty-year-old age range as Assistant State Attorney Jack Campbell. Without a doubt, these deputies feel obligated to abide by Assistant State Attorney Jack Campbell’s playbook—even it means smuggling contraband into the Leon County Jail—a jail that he father was elected to oversee for over fifteen years. Assistant State Attorney Jack Campbell used a number of Leon County Sheriff’s Office employee as witnesses. A defendant’s defense attorney wouldn’t dare introduce professional witnesses to refute the testimonies of Assistant State Attorney Jack Campbell’s witnesses—nor the medical examiner’s testimony—even when it was clear that the medical examiner was committing perjury. SN: Imagine this—a Florida government employee can lose his or her job for selling Girl Scout Cookies while on the job—while a Leon County Sheriff’s Deputy can get a promotion for committing perjury in order for Willie Meggs’ Assistant State Attorneys to win convictions. Now back to reality—this is not imaginary—Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell used a family friend as a Leon County Sheriff’s Detective—as a lead detective in their Violent Crimes Unit. This family friend, Don Odham, has a history of unethical behavior. In addition, Mr. Odham executed search warrants on teenagers (minors) outside of the presence of their parents. There are legal documents filed with the Leon County Clerk’s Office identifying Mr. Odham as a Leon County Sheriff’s Detective—a seemingly common practice in order to gain the conviction of defendants who were facing charges being investigated by the Leon County Sheriff’s Office. Mr. Odham was also allowed to testify before jurors. All of this clearly known by the Public Defender’s Office, as well as counsel with the Regional Counsel’s Office, who chose not to conduct depositions of witnesses—and presenting an impromptu trial. A complete disrespect to not just the judicial system but to everyone—every wrongful conviction leaves the real criminal in the community. Forget a guaranteed ninety (90) percent occupancy rate—with Willie Meggs’ method of operation—with Willie Meggs’ oversight of six counties—with the assistance of the Public Defender’s Office, the Regional Counsel’s Office and the circuit judges being told what to do by Assistant State Attorney Jack Campbell—a guaranteed one hundred (100) percent occupancy rate could be possible. In Assistant State Attorney Jack Campbell’s own words, “I’ve instructed judges to appoint certain attorneys on cases.” SN: Imagine what Florida’s Prison System would look like if every circuit judge followed the instructions of Assistant State Attorney prosecuting cases—specifically instructing circuit judges what attorneys to assign to indigent clients. (A guaranteed one hundred (100) percent occupancy rate. Now that’s charity!) In January 2011, “Detective” Don Odham violated numerous Civil Rights of 17-year-old DeShon Thomas and DeShon’s mother inside of the Leon County Sheriff’s Office. “Detective” Don Odham and Assistant State Attorney teamed up to charge DeShon with Two Counts of 1st Degree Murder. Because no other Leon County Sheriff’s Detective would support Mr. Odham’s probable cause which prompted DeShon being charged with the murders, Mr. Odham, who had never been deposed, was forced to testify during DeShon’s trial. It was at that time when DeShon and his mother learned that Mr. Odham was not an official member of the Leon County Sheriff’s Office. Mr. Odham did not have the credential to be a detective. Mr. Odham was merely a local businessman—a family friend of the Campbell’s—with so much time on his hands that he assumed the role of a detective. Mr. Odham was by all means an IMPOSTER with the authorization of government officials. (This website further outlines the different events that led up to DeShon being convicted—WRONGLY CONVICTED.) Not just government officials and law enforcement officers in Ferguson, Missouri… Florida’s government officials need to change their perspective—starting with guaranteeing any prison facility an occupancy rate. Just maybe Rep. Matt Gaetz and his dad, Senator Don Gaetz could work on prison reform. After all, Rep. Matt Gaetz is quoted as to having said what many people in prison say all of the time, “I made bad decisions that resulted in an arrest, and that is sort of something that we all live with.” Show some respect—it should be all about respect for one another—providing a safe, not cozy place—whether it’s a work environment, the place of an unfortunate inmate, or the place where an inmate needs to be—Florida’s Prison System is a far cry from a charitable organization.

Author: MAUL10

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