Senators from both parties heaped praise on James Crosby Thursday as they recommended his confirmation to run Florida's prisons in Gov. Jeb Bush's second term.
The Senate Criminal Justice Committee voted 7-0 for Crosby, a 28-year employee of the prison system who worked his way from inmate assignment to warden of Florida State Prison in Starke. The vote signals easy Senate confirmation, which is required.
Crosby, 50, a native of Bradford County and former mayor of Starke, was the warden of FSP in 1999 when death row inmate Frank Valdes was beaten to death. Crosby was not implicated in the case. Three officers were acquitted of charges connected to Valdes' death.
The Valdes case was not raised Thursday. Senators praised Crosby for his candor and knowledge of the system.
"Is he going to make mistakes? Yeah. He's made them before," said Sen. Rod Smith, D-Alachua, a friend of Crosby's for 25 years. "But he's a straight shooter."
Crosby takes charge of one of the nation's largest prison systems at a time when the inmate population is rising and the number of guards has declined.
The bald, stocky Crosby, a distinctive figure in Tallahassee, showed a sense of humor, a trait that never hurts in the Capitol.
"Who is your barber?" asked Sen. Steve Geller, D-Hallandale Beach.
"I handle it myself," Crosby said.
Easier restraining orders
The Senate Criminal Justice Committee unanimously approved two bills making it easier to get restraining orders.
One was filed by Sen. Burt Saunders, R-Naples, after a woman in his area couldn't get a restraining order against a peeping tom with a rape conviction on his record. State law does not allow such orders unless the person seeking it has been a victim of violence. The bill (SB 108) requires only that the person have reason to believe he or she is in danger.
The second bill (SB 294), sponsored by Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa, allows victims of sexual violence to immediately seek a restraining order and allows victims to obtain a restraining order when their attacker is released from prison. Under current state law a person has to be a repeat victim of sexual violence to obtain a restraining order.
Tougher rule on kids left in cars
A bill unanimously approved by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee would expand a law prohibiting leaving children alone in cars.
The bill (SB 1224) would make it illegal to leave any children age 8 or younger alone in a car for any length of time. Current law prohibits leaving children 6 and under alone in a car more than 15 minutes.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Mandy Dawson, D-Fort Lauderdale, also would double the current fine to $200 for a first offense.
Harder time for parks pushers
Drug dealers who work areas around parks would face tougher penalties under a bill unanimously approved by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.
The bill (SB 1588) would make it a first-degree felony to sell drugs within 1,000 feet of a park or recreation center. It is now a first-degree felony to sell drugs within 200 feet of a park.
Sponsor Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-West Palm Beach, said the law would be similar to one that allows stiffer penalties for dealing drugs near schools.
Currently, selling drugs in other areas is a second-degree felony.
An identical bill (HB 57) is moving through the House.
[Last modified April 18, 2003, 13:36:32]
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