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Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability

Department of Corrections Zero Tolerance Policy Increases Offender Scrutiny But Is Not Based on Risk to Public Safety, Report No. 07-13, February 2007
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  • The Department of Corrections established a “zero tolerance policy” in 2003 requiring its probation officers to report every offender who violates any condition of supervision.  It covers both new criminal offenses and technical violations such as missing appointments with probation officers or treatment counselors, missing curfew, and leaving the house for an unauthorized reason while under house arrest.  As a result of this policy, the number of technical violation reports has increased by 54%.
  • The zero tolerance policy has enhanced public safety by increasing scrutiny of offenders and incarceration of those who commit new offenses.  However, in addition to removing dangerous offenders from the community, the policy requires a significant amount of resources to be spent on offenders who commit minor technical violations and who pose little threat to public safety.  All offenders reported for violations are now subject to arrest and court hearings are held to resolve the violations.  As a result, the policy has had a significant impact on the courts, law enforcement, and those offenders who are subsequently released without further sanction.
  • The state should consider alternatives to handling technical violations by low-risk offenders in order to better target limited resources at persons who pose the greatest public risk while still holding all offenders responsible for their actions.  These alternatives include authorizing probation officers to apply graduated sanctions for minor violations, establishing an internal review process for technical violations, and creating specialized courts to hear technical violation cases.

Which Government Program Summaries contain related information?

Department of Corrections
Community Corrections

What other OPPAGA-related materials are available?

  • Report No. 10-39 Zero Tolerance Policy Rescinded and Alternatives Implemented to Address Technical Violations, published in April 2010.
  • Report No. 07-42 Electronic Monitoring Expanded to Target Communities’ More Dangerous Offenders, published in November 2007.
  • Report No. 07-17 Higher Priority Should Be Given to Transition Services to Reduce Inmate Recidivism, published in February 2007.
  • Report No. 07-16 Some Inmate Family Visitation Practices Are Not Meeting the Legislature’s Intent, published in February 2007.
  • Report No. 07-15 Corrections Experiences Turnover and Vacancies, But Performance Not Diminished, published in February 2007.
  • Report No. 07-14 Corrections Rehabilitative Programs Effective, But Serve Only a Portion of the Eligible Population, published in February 2007.
  • Report No. 06-37 Several Deficiencies Hinder the Supervision of Offenders in the Community Corrections Program, published in April 2006.
  • Report No. 05-19 OPPAGA Report: Electronic Monitoring Should Be Better Targeted to the Most Dangerous Offenders, published in April 2005.
  • Report No. 04-58 Progress Report: More Efficient Use of Probation Officers and Prioritization of Victim Restitution Needed, published in August 2004.
  • Report No. 00-23 Review of the Department of Corrections, published in December 2000.

Copies of this report in print or alternate accessible format may be obtained by telephone (850/488-0021), by FAX (850/487-9213), in person, or by mail (OPPAGA Report Production, Claude Pepper Building, Room 312, 111 W. Madison St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-1475).
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