• Home
  • Opinion
  • Lifestyle
  • Weather
  • Nature Calendar
  • Letters to the Editor
  • Florida Tales
  • You And The Law
  • Contact Us
  • Classifieds
  • About Jack Strickland

    Jack Strickland is a retired AP writer who was nominated by our newspaper for The Pulitzer Prize. His writing about Florida prisons, cancer victims, sports, and just plain folks is a special treasury for readers. He is active in the war against cancer. He, himself, is a survivor. As a reporter he covered many of the major stories in Florida. He lives in Gainesville where he is an advocate for cancer patients of all ages. Jack finds special joy in getting sports stars and teams involved in the care young cancer victims. He claims that the athletes benefit from the involvement as much as the patients. He says he managed to miss many tackles as a football player long ago, and learned that defeat can be temporary and serve as the foundation for success.
    Recent Florida Tales Content

     • Gator gym team changes sadness to a smile for cancer victims at Hope Lodge - Dynamic UF gymnastics team is a winner everywhere, and in the fight against cancer they bring laughter and inspiration to patient who felt depressed. ...
     • Day in court in Alachua County: tragedy without an end - Young father could face 48 years in prison in accident in which his 4-month-old daughter and a 6-year-old boy were killed. A day in court in Alachua County shed light on how the wheels of justice turn in this case. ...
     • Day in court in Alachua County: tragedy without an end - Young father could face 48 years in prison in accident in which his 4-month-old daughter and a 6-year-old boy were killed. A day in court in Alachua County shed light on how the wheels of justice turn in this case. ...
     • Swept up into court, the homeless lady gets a bit of justice, a taste of mercy in daily docket - Day in court puts the drama on the front burner as judge tries to sort out fates of those caught in the justice system. Multiple charges are the rule. ...
     • Nation’s handicapped got royal treatment as Tebow Foundation sponsored a special night - Tim Tebow foundation sponsored a gala event for the handicapped, and they arrived in stretch limousines and horse-drawn carriages. ...
     • Sophia, 10, battles leukemia with courage as champion Gator volleyball team wears her ribbon - Sophia Castro becomes honorary member of SEC champion team in her courageous fight against leukemia ...
     • Kids at hospital show No.1 Gator basketball team true courage as laughter, smiles are shared - After defeating basketball powerhouse Kentucky, the Gator basketball team took on even a more daunting challenge of fighting on behalf of kids who face life-threatening illness at Shands Hospital in Gainesville. ...
     • Capt. Reeves, trained to shoot first, ask questions later, could face prison fate worse than death - The inside story of what happened in tragic shooting in movie theatre near Tampa reveals that police officer may have regretted firing his gun. ...
     • Jolly old Brits slam legal door on Tyson, but ex-con and author finds justice, warmth in Paris - Most countries recognize that when a man has served his time in jail, he’s paid his debt to society. So let’s not go to England’s cold, damp climate and we can have a good time elsewhere. ...
     • Many years ago, police did delay actions on an athlete, and they were right at that time - The allegations in the Jameis Winston controversy raise more questions, and bring to mind an earlier incident with another athlete in which the police did exercise discretion, to their credit. ...
     • I ‘ain’t dead yet’ despite what the doctor’s records show, and that’s enough to mix up everyone - Columnist Jack Strickland has been listed as “dead” by the authorities, but this column proves he is very much alive. ...
     • I ‘ain’t dead yet’ despite what the doctor’s records show, and that’s enough to befuddle everyone - Columnist Jack Strickland has been listed as “dead” by the authorities, but this column proves he is very much alive. ...
     • Football season is uproarious time for players, fans and coaches - Among so many jests, we recall famous coach Norm Van Brocklin who once said he needed a brain transplant and wanted the brain of a sportswriter because it had never been used. ...
     • Ariel Castro would have eventually been killed under ‘Convicts’ Code of Ethics’ - Even with no death penalty for his horrific crimes, Ariel Castro faced a terminal fate in prison where he finally committed suicide. There is little or no protection in prison for convicts whose crimes cross the line drawn by other prisoners. ...
     • Breathless comeback, tears of joy mark Gator victory in national gymnastics championships - The University of Florida gymnastics team faced a tough battle as first event became prelude to courageous comeback for the team and their coach at the 2013 National Championships. ...

    Recent TTN News Content

     • The down and out: tales of people trapped in a storm that wrought havoc in Florida - The down-and-out victims of Hurricane Irma come from various walks of life, and many of them are in Florida's prison system. This is their story....
     • Hurricane is coming, batten down the hatches - Preparations are essential as storm approaches the Tallahassee area ...
     • Out for repair - Off for repairs ...
     • UF will not allow white supremacist to speak on campus - The University of Florida has said that the likelihood of violence has caused it to take action to oppose permission for a white academic nationalist to speak on campus. ...
     • OL Samuels dies; creative folk artist won state, national acclaim, family asks for help for expenses - O.L. Samuels, 85, was a boxer, bounty hunter, singer, arborist, minister and acclaimed folk artist whose unique carvings were recognized by the public, art collectors and museums including the Smithsonian. ...
     • A free life is a miracle for Calvin Thomas after he serves 57 years of a death sentence - It is no small miracle that Thomas is alive. His death warrant was signed in the 1960's. He was moved to "The Ready Room" next to the electric chair as preparations were made for his execution. The courts granted a stay of execution hours before he was scheduled to be put to death. Now, he will enjoy a new life, out of prison. ...
     • Aaron Hernandez left a message of eternal life as he willfully took his own life in prison - Aaron Hernandez was a gifted athlete who led a troubled life. But his suicide caught friends and family by surprise, a week after an quital in court on another case. ...
     • Frosty the Snowman provided a chilly break from Florida’s warmer winter weather - Visiting up North was an experience that a Floridian could enjoy, but coming home to warmer weather makes one appreciate Florida. ...
     • Women prisoners count their blessings on a tearful Thanksgiving at Lowell Prison - Visits on Thanksgiving were all too short at Lowell Prison where children were asking "Why can't I stay with Mommy?" Columnist Jack Strickland visits at Lowell and writes a riveting story about the emotions of the day as families got together all too briefly. He came away with both a feeling of sadness and of joy. ...
     • “Souls to the Polls” march re-enacts history to inspire students at FAMU to vote in the election - FAMU students recreated history on Sunday with a march to the polls to demonstrate the importance of voting and to inspire students to vote in the national election. ...
     • Florida women’s prison is nightmare as prisoners endure humiliation, poor medical care, rip-offs - Florida's major prison for women is an endless nightmare for those who have to endure the permanent psychological scarring that results from little privacy, no meaningful rehabilitation, general neglect of medical care by the prisons, and the rip-off of high prices for phone calls and items supplied by private contractors. ...
     • Question is whether Adelson family was involved in Markel murder, and motives of the suspects - Questions remain unanswered about release of evidence and possible motives for murder - were suspects trying to extort money from Adelsons? ...
     • Small explosion causes chaos at Florida A&M University - An explosion at the FAMU campus Thursday was actually a dishwasher catching fire. However it did cause a scare among faculty, staff and students at the Presidential Dining Hall. ...
     • In a surprise appearance, Shaq has a ball inspiring neighborhood kids to dream big - A surprise visit by the former star basketball player to Gainesville and the police department brought out good feelings all around as kids got to play with superstar. ...
     • ‘Cash register justice’ for the poor means no justice for many in Florida courts - Prosecutors now seek to extract fees from indigent defendents to help pay office costs, causing possible miscarriage of justice, says national justice center. ...

    Jack Strickland's Florida Tales...

    Swept up into court, the homeless lady gets a bit of justice, a taste of mercy in daily docket

    November 01, 2015

    Statewide

    By Jack Strickland

    Subject: A Day In Court

    Everyone should spend a day at a courthouse sitting in a courtroom. Watching justice dispensed is both educational and thought provoking. It’s not unlike the process of making sausage or drafting laws in congress or the legislature. The process is not for the squeamish. It is easier to appreciate the final product if you do not witness the process that produces the final result.

    On this day I am sitting in the cheap seats observing the docket in a county court. The defendants scheduled to appear are not charged with serious crimes. They are either charged with misdemeanors or municipal infractions. The maximum penalty that can be imposed by the court is one year in the county jail and/or a fine. No one in this courtroom will be sent to the penitentiary, today.

    The presiding judge is The Honorable Denise R. Ferrero. People waiting to come before her seem to view her as a good judge. She has a reputation for being a tough judge who is fair. Defendants who claim they are innocent or the victim of circumstances want her to hear their cases.


    Courtoom filled with those awaiting justice

    The courtroom is packed. The police have been busy. There are not enough seats to accommodate all of the people who have been arrested and commanded to appear. Before the judge enters the courtroom a bailiff calls for attention. He has a list of people who are on the docket who are eligible for pretrial intervention.

    That is a program for first time offenders who can avoid court and a conviction on their record if they sign up for the program and fulfill all of of its requirements. Usually, if they do not get arrested again within six months the charges go away and they have no criminal record. Almost one third of the people in the courtroom go outside to sign the forms. None of them return to the courtroom.

    The courtroom remains crowded but everyone now has a seat. Soon the bailiff returns and gives instructions on courtroom decorum. Before long he bellows, “All rise! Court is in session. The Honorable Judge Denise Ferraro is presiding.” The judge, wearing a black robe, enters through a back door and commands with a smiling face, “Be seated.” 

    Then the drama begins. The defendants coming before the court are charged with a wide range offenses. In this college town a large number of the young people are charged with underage drinking or marijuana related offenses. There are some petty thefts, trespassing, and charges of assault & battery.  Almost everyone is charged with multiple offenses. It seems to be the policy of the police to tack on as many charges as possible.

    A person charged with a drinking offense might also be charged with resisting arrest without violence, and possession of an improper ID. A person charged with smoking marijuana might also be charged with possession of drug paraphernalia (a pipe or roach clip), maintaining a car or residence where drugs are used, or drug use near a school or church. I learned that a straw from McDonald’s can be called drug paraphernalia and carry a criminal charge.

    Multiple charges are the rule

    The defendant who captured my attention was a polite young lady who appeared to be in her early twenties. She told the court she is homeless. She was initially arrested for an open container violation. She said she was sitting in a public park drinking a beer when a police officer approached her and placed her under arrest. After she was handcuffed he searched her purse and found drug paraphernalia. It was apparently a marijuana pipe. That added another charge and she went to jail. 

    She was subsequently released on her recognizance and given a court date. She had missed that court date. The judge had been told she was hospitalized and apparently the absence had been excused. The judge seemed to want verification that she had indeed been hospitalized. The defendant seemed to provide adequate confirmation.

    Judge searches out a solution


    She did not appear to be a stranger to court. It was my guess that her homelessness probably caused the police officer to focus his attention on her sitting alone at an isolated park.  She pleaded guilt as charged. In the sentencing process, the judge asked if she were using alcohol or drugs that day that might impair her judgment or ability to comprehend the consequences of her guilty plea.

    She said she was not. The judge asked if she received any prescriptions when she was hospitalized.

    The defendant said she had been given prescriptions but did not have the money to get them filled. She was taking no medication.

    The judge offered probation with community service. The defendant reminded the judge that she is homeless. She said she could not meet the requirement of probation and was too sick to do community service. She asked for a straight jail sentence so she could pay whatever debt she had incurred to society. She said she just wanted do her time, get it over with, and be done with it.

    The judge offered to impose a fine in the amount of the cost of court. With all of the fees it appeared that amount was a few hundred dollars. Since she could not pay the cost the judge offered to convert it to a civil judgment and release her. The judge cautioned that a civil judgment might cause the suspension of her drivers license. The defendant said that would not be a problem. She did not have a car or drivers license and had no prospect of getting either.

    The judge sentenced her accordingly and wished her well. Next case!

    Don’t try to drink a beer in town


    A question haunts me. Where can a homeless person in this town enjoy a beer? Apparently there is nowhere she can go within the city limits.

    At a press conference this past week FBI director James Comey announced an effort to reduce the length of prison sentences for nonviolent crimes. He said the nations prisons are overcrowded.  A major cause seems to be long sentences imposed for drug and marijuana convictions.

    Director Comey might also review the police practice of tacking on additional charges for different infractions for basically the same crime. That practice seems to be aimed at putting people in jail for extended periods of time.