August, 2021

Pasco County Sheriff Initiates Prolific Offender Program
 
A new program of the Pasco County Sheriff’s office in Florida includes the sending of a four-page letter to certain recipients; the letter begins with, “We are pleased to inform you that you have been selected to participate in a Prolific Offender Program run by the Pasco Sheriff’s Office …”

The “Prolific Offender” program letter explains to the recipient that they were “selected as a result of an evaluation of [the recipient’s] recent criminal behavior using an unbiased, evidence-based risk assessment designed to identify prolific offenders in our community. As a result of this designation, we will go to great efforts to encourage change in your life through enhanced support and increased accountability.” Recipients, or enrollees, in the program may have the Prolific Offender designation removed if they “refrain from criminal activity” for two years. Two of the four pages are listings of resources, including contact information for mental health, substance abuse, domestic violence, and legal needs. The Sheriff’s letter states the desire to help the recipient “begin a new path”; however, the letter also cautions the recipient that they will be held fully accountable for choices and actions and notes that the recipients’ names and criminal histories have been shared with “local, state, and federal law enforcement entities and prosecutors” to ensure “the highest level of accountability for all current and future criminal acts” of the recipient.

Critics of the program cite likely harassment; Lauren Johnson, assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, stated that this type of “heightened surveillance” does not make people or communities safer.

Sources:  Kathleen McGrory, “Pasco Sheriff’s Office letter targets residents for ‘increased accountability’,”
tampabay.com, July 24, 2021:
https://www.tampabay.com/investigations/2021/07/24/pasco-sheriffs-office-letter-targets-residents-for-increased-accountability/
Pasco County Sheriff’s letter:
https://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/21015592/pso_letter-1.pdf
Pasco County Sheriff’s Office:
https://www.pascosheriff.com/resources.html
Related: 
“Predictive Law Enforcement in Florida County,” Criminal Defense Newsletter, Vol. 44, Issue 4, January, 2021:
https://www.sado.org/cdn/11399_44cdn4.pdf

by Neil Leithauser
Associate Editor