How To Cut Broward’s Criminal Justice Budget With Less Pain

Guest Columnist

Marcia Beach is right. 


Howard Finkelstein is wrong.



About what? Sheriff Al Lambertti’s decision  to cut programs and personnel to meet his budget reduction.
Are there other solutions to the budget problems that Lamberti isn’t considering?  Damn right.  

Faced with a budget reduction the Sheriff has decided to cut 260 positions and order a one-week furlough for all non-union employees.  All treatment programs in the jail will be eliminated. 

Public Defender Finkelstein gave the classic political non-answer answer:

What else can Lamberti do?  It’s that or take cops off the street.  Although he does worry that eliminating the programs will lead to more crimes.

His comments are in the Miami Herald here.

Circuit Court Judge Beach, who heads the Drug Court Program, makes no bones about it.  She said that this is a penny-wise and pound-foolish solution.

Drug treatment not only cuts down or recidivism but it reduces the jail population which is the Sheriff’s biggest expense.

 “If these programs are eliminated the jail will be at 100 percent capacity within a very short period of time,  Beach said.
It gets worse.

As a result of litigation, the Broward jail is under the watchful eye of a Federal judge. Once we exceed capacity daily fines could start accruing.

At that point,  Lamberti will be increasing the gain time in jail, not because penalties have been justly served, but because he has no room.
Keep in mind that the 260 people he fires will now go on Unemployment Insurance.  At $250 a week that will cost $1.5 million a year. Add to that Food Stamps and a host of other expenses.

Unable to pay COBRA fees for medical insurance, many will opt to use Emergency Rooms.  If even one of these people or a family member suffers some catastrophic illness, the Hospital Districts will be stuck for a dollar amount greater than all the layoff savings.

There are alternatives to these dismal possibilities:
First of all, the criminal justice community, cops, judges the State Attorney need to recognize that the criminal justice system is a finite resource.  It’s first goal should be to protect us from people that want to physically hurt us or take our property.

Only lastly should the criminal justice system protect us from our own vices.

To that end:

*Lamberti should charge a daily rental fee to all cities that send him prisoners arrested for victimless crimes.  That should also apply to the Pretrial Release program
 *Assets forfeited by criminals should no longer be segregated to law enforcement.  It should go into the general revenue of the jurisdiction.  Let’s take the profit motive out of prosecuting certain portions of the criminal code.
*Instead of firing the few, all employees, including union members, should share the $$$ pain.  The Sheriff and all the guys making over $100 grand should take a bigger hit.

 A one or two percent pay cut for a year would get us over the hump.  The Deputies who oppose this should be required to deliver the layoff notice and tell the family that it was their choice to fire their breadwinner to avoid a 2% pay cut for themselves.
Howard is right about one thing.  These cutbacks could lead to unsafe streets. 

But there are other solutions. 

(In addition to being’s resident guest columnist, Fields is a defense attorney specializing in criminal cases.) 


9 Responses to “How To Cut Broward’s Criminal Justice Budget With Less Pain”

  1. Finally says:

    Finally somebody sees Finkelstein for what he is — a weasely politician. Mr. I’m-not-political is just as political as Al Schreiber, albeit in a more sophisticated way.

  2. Three Points says:


    First let me acknowledge the improved tone and content of your last few articles. Hopefully those props won’t send you off the deep end again.

    In response to your three points:

    1) The cities, through their residents, already pay rent to the sheriff so that he can house criminals. It’s called taxes. High taxes at that. Cities have no such funds and finding them would mean increasing taxes. If anybody’s going to increase taxes so the jails can work, let it be the Sheriff so people can hold him accountable. It is his job, not that of cities, to run the jails.

    2) So long as criminally obtained assets are seized and converted to the public good, it really doesn’t matter to me where in local budgets that money goes. Frankly, as I think about it more, I like that the money goes to cops. That’s an added incentive for them to capture more criminals. And I am perfectly OK with that outcome.

    3) I agree that all employees should bear the pain of keeping as many government staff employed as is affordable. Unions must offer concessions to make that happen or face lay offs. They must choose which they prefer.

    Good article.

  3. Beth The Bounty Hunter says:

    Doing away with drug rehab programs is ridiculous. Addictions are a disease and not something that is chosen by an individual. If someone needs medicine for diabetes or high blood pressure, etc., are you going to take that away too???

    As for the 2% pay cut I think that is a great idea. Anyone not in agreement is selfish and self serving. keep everybody working and lighten the load for our welfare department.

  4. TheBrowardRepublican says:

    I agree with keeping the drug rehab programs, but disagree that they should be under the jurisdiction of the sheriff’s office. Treat these crimes for what they are, a social disease. Dealers, however, should rot in the lowest bowels of the prisons.

  5. Martha says:

    The sheriff has already already asked for a furlough from his senior managers and himself (one week almost 2% pay) which they are doing. As for the union they are not making concessions hence the layoffs by the sheriff. He is doing what he can and is doing a great job. I’m sure if the union stepped up they layoffs would not be required.

  6. anon says:

    Maybe someone should ask why he keeps non LEO Art Santucci for 225k a year while the rank and file are losing their jobs

  7. GOPapa says:

    Lamberti is trying to work with the county commission, who is thwarting him at every turn. We are in a recession/depression so why is the county commission spending hundreds of millions on a new courthouse now. I believe Sam Fields suggested they should remain the one they have until better times. The county commission staff is also huge! Until they pare down their own spending, don’t throw rocks at Sheriff Al.

  8. Sam Fields says:

    Dear “Finally Says”
    You don’t know Howard. If fact you don’t know Jackshit.

    Howard’s is a honorable person and a friend. It does not mean that I agree with him about everything although I do agree with him about most everything.

    Yes, he is media savvy. There is nothing wrong with that. What is the measure of the man is how he uses that skill. In Howard’s case it has always been for the fighting the good fight for the underdog.

    And while he clearly enjoys the limelight he has never turned it into something for lining his own pockets or accumulating power for power sake.

    If all other politicians had Howard’s heart this would be a better county, state and country.

    So criticize him for policies you might disagree with. That you attack his honor anonymously shows you are the unworthy one.

  9. Sam Fields says:

    Dear GOPapa;
    My remarks about the need for a new Courthouse were not directed to opining whether repairs to the existing one would save money and take care of all the problems.

    I doubt it would.

    What concerned me was that the building was only fifty years old and in decrepit condition. County commissions, dominated by both Dems and Reps, ignored maintenance.

    It was but a small example of the massive infrastructure problem that goes to public buildings, dams, roads, bridges etc. throughout the nation.