One voice for the Office of Sheriff
In 2013, Sheriff Robert Gualtieri was approached by the local board of county commissioners and asked to provide misdemeanor probation services to the citizens of Pinellas County. This enormous responsibility necessitated the need for a supervisor that was capable and willing to take on such a project.
The individual who was tasked with the responsibility of evaluating whether or not the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office could effectively construct, implement, and administer these services was Detention and Corrections Sergeant Bailey. Sergeant Bailey began to devise an operational plan, which has ultimately led to the creation of the Misdemeanor Probation Unit (MPU) of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. The MPU opened its doors for the first time in September 2013.
Only the second Florida sheriff’s office to take on the responsibility of overseeing probationary services, Sergeant Bailey had little guidance and no real “blueprint” to model a program. However, as of today, the MPU employs 36 individuals who are responsible for supervising over 2,500 defendants on any given day.
Early on in the development of the program, Sergeant Bailey recognized the necessity to identify individuals who are high risk for recidivism and will most likely not be successful in completing their probationary term. Additionally, it was the goal of Sergeant Bailey to genuinely assist those probationers who have acquired destructive behaviors, which directly contribute to a propensity for engagement in deviant and unlawful conduct.
Sergeant Bailey implemented several best practices to get this new unit off the ground. Misdemeanor probation while under the management of the previous provider routinely experienced caseloads in excess of 250 offenders per probation specialist. Not only was staff overwhelmed, the process was chaotic and ineffective because new probationers had to be fit into already tight schedules. Sergeant Bailey employed a separate designated intake center for new offenders. This process relieved the probation specialists from unscheduled reporting of new offenders and led to a more manageable work environment.
After meeting with existing service providers, Sergeant Bailey was instrumental in getting providers to decrease their fees or change their policy on extended payment plans. He also opened the MPU facility’s classrooms to service providers for conducting substance abuse screening, anger management counseling, and shoplifting classes in an attempt to assist with convenience and cost reduction for services.
Sergeant Bailey also implemented a commercially purchased software program to conduct recidivism risk assessments on all offenders entering the program. The MPU uses the information the program provides to set up individualized levels of supervision for offenders.
Sergeant Bailey has made a dramatic difference in the structure, success, and reputation of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and its Misdemeanor Probation Unit. He has worked seemingly endless hours to provide a program with as much efficiency and effectiveness as possible.
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