WEST PALM BEACH, FL – In 1841, John Augustus, a Boston bootmaker, posted bail for a man who would have otherwise received a jail sentence, took him under his wing, and later convinced the judge that the man was rehabilitated and should remain free. Little did Augustus realize that it was the beginning of an 18-year career as the country’s first probation officer. For 18 years until his death, Augustus voluntarily helped nearly 2,000 minor offenders, including men, women, and children. He bailed them out of prison and helped prevent many of them from serving additional prison terms through rehabilitation by finding them employment or housing.
Augustus earned the title as the "Father of Probation" because of his pioneering efforts on behalf of those convicted of crimes. Since then, the goal of probation has been "rehabilitation," and probation officers' jobs have frequently been contrasted with those of social workers. Unfortunately, this began to shift in the late 1970s and early 1980s, as society became more punitive and the "tough on crime" movement gained traction.
As a result, probation officers began to emphasize the legal aspects of their jobs, particularly the strict enforcement of supervision conditions. States also implemented "intensive supervision" programs, which imposed even stricter restrictions on those being monitored. Due to this shift in emphasis toward surveillance and enforcement, more people on probation were sentenced to prison for probation violations.
Many states have acknowledged the failure to effectively rehabilitate those on probation by failing to prioritize rehabilitation, families, and safe communities and have enacted laws for probation reform. To address this issue in the state of Florida, multiple organizations and coalitions led by REFORM Alliance worked with lawmakers to craft new legislation.
SB 752 (Bill) received unanimous support in both the Florida House and Senate. The Bill was signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis on June 3, 2022, and was effective on July 1. Among other things, the Bill enables Floridians on probation to receive new education and employment credits that will cut their probation terms short. The education credits apply when a person obtains their GED, high school diploma, college degree or receives vocational certification. They can also receive work credits for consistently working six months at their full-time jobs.
The Bill also creates a new, permanent infrastructure for remote reporting across the entire state, giving probationers and their probation officers opportunities to utilize technology and cut down on travel time by connecting in ways that better support their rehabilitation objectives and successful reintegration into society.
“This new law provides practical and common-sense probation reform that is a big step in the right direction – more in line with the original intent of probation as pioneered by John Augustus 181 years ago,” says criminal defense attorney Ron Chapman. “Creating opportunities and incentives to help people on probation get off probation sooner and back to living full, meaningful lives, benefits all of society.
“In my criminal defense practice, I represent people on probation dealing with challenging circumstances. In some cases, people ended up violating the terms of their probation because they couldn’t keep their in-person appointment with their parole officer. The provision allowing for authorized remote reporting will alleviate many of the challenges they faced regarding transportation, work, and child care. This law offers people a real second chance, and I commend the Florida Legislature and all the groups who worked hard to pass this much needed probation reform.”
About Ronald S. Chapman, P.A.
Ron Chapman has 30 years of experience as a criminal defense lawyer. He represents people accused of committing a wide range of crimes in both State and Federal Court in Florida. Those crimes include DUI, battery, economic crimes such as theft and dealing in stolen property, animal abuse, traffic crimes such as reckless driving, murder, manslaughter, crimes against children, federal crimes involving guns and drugs, crimes against the elderly, appeals, and violations of probation.
If you or someone you know requires the assistance of a proven criminal defense attorney, look no further than the law firm of Ronald S. Chapman. Call him today at (561) 832-4348 or visit his website at https://www.justiceflorida.com/. His professional team is available to assist you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.