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Florida Sheriff Faces Contempt Proceedings for Furlough Program

The State Attorney for Florida’s Gadsden County has petitioned a state court to hold the sheriff in contempt for allowing prisoners an eight hour furlough without court approval.

 “The inmates involved were supposed to have been held on bond or no bond pursuant to court order,” states the petition filed by State Attorney Willie Meggs.” However, Sheriff Morris A. Young, in direct contravention of those court orders and without lawful authority allowed these inmates to be released from the jail.”

An order to show cause signed by Circuit Judge Barbara Hobbs requires Young to explain why he should not be held in contempt and appear before her on October 24. The 19 page petition details 20 cases of prisoners being released on furloughs, some without supervision, and it identifies another 92 given such temporary release.

Young, a believer in “restorative justice, “said his predecessor, longtime Sheriff W. A. Woodman, began the furlough policy and he has continued it. Racism and “character assassination,” Young contends, is behind the petition.

 “In the State of Florida, you don’t find many African-American sheriffs, so they’ve got their reasons. Being the longest serving African-American sheriff in Florida, this is why this is happening, this job ain’t for a black man – being sheriff. It ain’t supposed to happen,” said Young, who was elected in 2004. “Why would I clean the streets up and just let them go? I don’t have a whole lot of crime in Gadsden County because I chose to be tough on crime. So why would I be lax in jail?”

The brouhaha began after a man released on furlough in July attacked his wife. The man was arrested for failing to pay child support, and while on furlough he choked and threatened to kill his wife with a wrench.

Furloughs were granted to allow prisoners to attend family cookouts, private homes, or motel rooms to meet women. In one case, a furlough was granted to a prisoner sentenced to 45 years in Leon County and was awaiting trial on other charges in Gadsden County.

Young also says the furloughs help relieve jail overcrowding. “How the temporary release of inmates on a furlough for a few hours has any meaningful effect on jail overcrowding defies explanation,” wrote Meggs. PLN will report future developments in the matter.

Sources: Tallahassee Democrat; Associated Press

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