The Florida Department of Corrections (headed by Walter McNeil) needs to stop pointing fingers and start taking responsibility for the escape of Tommy Lee Sailor. They’re the ones who screwed up by failing to notice when the violent serial offender absconded from his ankle monitor on New Year’s Eve, enabling Sailor to attack yet another innocent victim.
The Florida Parole Commission (headed by Frederick B. Dunphy) also needs to stop hiding and start answering questions about their decisions and policies that freed Sailor before his sentence was complete.
But instead of doing the jobs they’re paid handsomely to do — that is, lead agencies, and take the heat like grown men when they fail at their jobs — McNeil and Dunphy are hiding out and letting their press flacks blame . . . Verizon.
That’s right. According to our fine political appointees, Tommy Lee Sailor wasn’t wandering the streets looking for a woman to rape and kill because the parole board is more interested in cutting the prisons budget than keeping people safe, or because Corrections so fundamentally dropped the ball on monitoring him that they actually feel comfortable verbalizing excuses like: these alarms go off so often it’s hard to tell what’s an emergency, and, the dog ate my rapist-monitoring text message.
Oh no, it was all Verizon’s fault.
From the St. Pete Times, which is doing a good job of questioning the official blather:
Around 12:15 a.m. Saturday, the company hired by the state to track violent offenders got notice that something was not as it should be with Sailor. . . The call center at Odessa-based Pro Tech Monitoring sent text messages to Sailor’s on-call probation officer, Pam Crompton. When contacted by a reporter, Crompton referred all questions about what happened to the Florida Department of Corrections [as she should]. One text message, called an “alarm,” went out to Crompton at 12:44 a.m., Corrections Department spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said. Another flew at 1:57 a.m. Crompton heard nothing, Plessinger said.
Let’s review: Pro Tech Monitoring, a private business which profits from policies that release dangerous offenders back into the community with nothing more than a ring-a-ling around their ankles, gets notice that Tommy Lee Sailor, an exceedingly dangerous felon, has absconded on New Year’s Eve. What do they do? They send a text message. Then, after receiving no reply from the parole officer responsible for Sailor, they wait an hour and thirteen minutes . . . before sending another text. Then they go have a snack or get distracted by the tv, because that’s apparently all they did.
“I’m going to kill you,” Sailor told his victim. “I’m a serial rapist.” “I’m a serial killer.” “I don’t care about going back to prison.”
Why didn’t somebody at Pro Tech Monitoring pick up a damn phone and call the police? So asks “Ben Overstreet,” a commenter on the St. Pete Times website. He modestly suggests:
Send out the first text, and if that person does not call back in 5 minutes send out another to them and their Boss, no response in 5 minutes. Send local Law Enforcement to the address. Problem solved.
Too bad this Ben Overstreet person, whoever he is, isn’t getting the big bucks overseeing violent parolees. Sounds like he’s onto something which apparently did not so much as occur to all the king’s horses and all the king’s men actually being paid to watch Sailor.
Oh, they did try to call Sailor, but he wasn’t home. He was out hunting. Women:
The call center tried to reach Sailor through his monitoring device, but the offender didn’t respond.
Does anyone else find this grotesquely ironic? A recidivist, violent felon and serial rapist absconds on New Year’s Eve, when the police have their hands full and the bars are brimming with amateur drinkers and other potentially endangered species, but when the monitoring company gets no response from the felon’s parole officer, they try to call the rapist himself, instead of calling the police?
What were they going to ask him if he came to the phone?
The victim secretly alerted 911 at 4:27 a.m. and dropped her cell phone on the floor. A 911 dispatcher tracked the phone signal to her location, and police arrived at 4:44 a.m. Only then did [Parole Officer] Crompton’s text messages start filling up her in-box. One, two, three alerts came all at once at 4:54 a.m. to her Verizon Wireless phone. Crompton checked them. Two were about Sailor. The third, also delayed in its delivery, was about another offender, [Corrections Department Spokeswoman] Plessinger said.
We’re supposed to believe that the parole officer didn’t receive any messages from Pro Tech Monitoring until ten minutes after the cops showed up at the scene of the attempted rape/murder. Is that the truth, or just the sound of the bureaucratic hive buzzing?
The real question, the question that either has not been asked or has not been answered, is this:
Why the hell didn’t the Corrections Department and Pro Tech Monitoring have a policy to keep trying to contact the proper authorities until they succeed whenever a violent offender like Sailor breaks loose?
Answer that, Ms. Plessinger. Mr. McNeil.
Florida Corrections chief Walter McNeil actually does a whole lot of communicating, at least on the Correction’s website, where he posts a blog of passing thoughts and affirmations. He quotes Oscar Wilde and Teddy Roosevelt, delivers advice about the flu, talks a lot about the value of clergy.
So he should have no trouble articulating a response to this scandal. And respond he should, because the message coming from his agency’s talking head suggests that the main reason Sailor’s escape (and it is an escape, make no mistake about it) went unnoticed is because it is so very common for these ankle thingies to go off; it’s just not considered a big deal; the policies were followed appropriately, you know, so how dare the rubes imply that we’re not doing our job according to the laughable rules we invented to monitor our own performances?
[Corrections spokesperson] Plessinger said that if [Parole Officer] Crompton had gotten the original text message at 12:44 a.m., she would have gone to Sailor’s house, found that he wasn’t home and notified police to be on the lookout for him. Police might have been waiting when Sailor arrived home. Still unexplained is why the text messages weren’t delivered on time. The Corrections Department is satisfied that Crompton followed procedure and that the Pro Tech system worked as designed. Right now, Plessinger said, they’re asking questions of Verizon Wireless, the cell phone provider.
“Crompton followed procedure and . . . the Pro Tech system worked as designed.”
Other than that, how did you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln?
It is a disgrace for government officials to behave this way. Clearly, the problem is that the bar is set far too low for keeping tabs on dangerous felons who have been released back into society (or not put away in the first place, like convicted rapist Richard Chotiner). Clearly, the problem is systematic disdain for rape victims and other current and future victims of crime. Some victims, that is. Imagine how different the official response would have been if Sailor had been intentionally hunting some type of person other than women, and thus hate crime laws “kicked in.”
Then there wouldn’t be this big reverberating sound of silence coming from the halls of power, nor half-baked accusations flung at a wireless company. Heck no. Then the Attorney General would jet in from Washington. Crist would work himself into a lather denouncing crimes “motivated by hatred” (other than hatred of women, of course). Schoolchildren around the state would groan collectively as their teachers announced yet another week of anti-bullying-teaching-tolerance re-education in the wake of that crime.
Whew. Good thing it wasn’t hate, because all those workbooks and classroom posters get really expensive. Just another garden-variety attack on a woman. So instead of grandstanding, the heads of state are practicing active hiding. The head of Corrections is busy reminding his staff that “nobody walks alone,” and to wash their hands after sneezing and bragging about all the grant money Florida just got to implement even more “prisoner re-entry” services and “community-based alternatives to incarceration.” The governor’s busy burying Chain-Gang Charlie deeper in that huge pile of mothballs in the back of his closet.
The mindset betrayed here is a troubling one, and it isn’t limited to any one political party. The left-wingers believe criminals are just misunderstood victims of society; the right-wingers, despite all their tough talk on crime, don’t want to pay what it would actually cost to prosecute and incarcerate every dangerous offender: nobody is taking a real stand on any of this.
Not one elected official has bothered to speak out on the travesty in Tampa, a government failure that nearly cost a woman her life.
“I wanted to pick somebody that I knew, that I had confidence in. I just had a personal relationship and an affinity for this man,” Charlie Crist said, in appointing McNeil to head up Corrections. How about somebody whose priority is being tough on violent criminals? Tommy Lee Sailor attacked at least two prison guards in incidents serious enough to be prosecuted as felonies: why is the head boss at corrections going on about washing your hands during flu season instead of talking about attacks on prison guards? Meanwhile, Crist’s recent criminal justice initiatives include spending our tax dollars on special “outreach” to felons to help them re-register to vote, just in case they’re too lazy to do it the way the rest of us do, by rising off our own tushes and going to the library.
Talk about fiddling while Rome burns.
Here’s an Oscar Wilde quote to chew on: “The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.”
Or, as Tommy Lee Sailor pointedly observed: “I don’t care about going back to prison.” At least somebody’s telling the truth around here.