Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and state lawmakers are considering new probation rules, in the wake of an 11-year-old girl's death allegedly at the hands of a repeat probation violator.
Carlie Brucia's accused killer, Joseph P. Smith, 37, violated probation twice but was not put in prison. In fact, Circuit Judge Harry Rapkin decided there was not enough evidence to do so in December even though he had not held a hearing and Department of Corrections officials asked the judge to do so.
Rapkin exhibits a tendency toward leniency. The Bradenton, Fla., newspaper reported the judge often failed to send probation violators to jail, leaving notes on their files ordering probation officers to "work with him" or "Handle this in house or just let it go." And yet the problem goes beyond this one judge.
Court documents show Smith had bypassed prison time at least eight times in 10 years in exchange for probation. Most of these charges were related to drug use. It's clear this type of repeat criminal deserved tougher punishment. Instead, he stayed out of jail, even when he violated his probation twice.
We hope the Florida Legislature can refine the laws of probation but still retain some trust in the judicial system, which works correctly most of the time.
Parents and guardians of children must take steps now to protect them from this type of crime. Talk to them about safety steps and precautions. Children should not trust every adult. It's not a good idea for any child, even a teen, to walk alone. If someone attempts to accost them, tell them to scream and lie down. Don't go complacently anywhere. Resist the kidnapper.
Nothing will bring Carlie Brucia back to life, but perhaps we can learn from this tragedy.
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