The criminal justice system has struggled for decades to effectively balance its primary public safety role of enforcing the rules and penalties of law through its policing, prosecutory, judicial, and penal institutions with its very important but secondary role of reducing and preventing crime through its public defenders, probation/ parole agencies in collaboration with its social service and faith-based partners. Because these roles are often in competition for limited public resources and are heavily influenced by the prevailing politics – the criminal justice system administrators have usually, and justifiably, prioritized its role and responsibility to our society. Therefore, our law enforcement officers are overworked, our courts are jammed packed and our jails and prisons are usually at or over-capacity. Juxtaposed with this discriminatory and error-prone state of affairs, are public defenders pressured by the courts to accept plea deals on behalf of their clients, probation and parole officers with unmanageably large caseloads, and the vast majority of community groups, social service and faith-based organizations – although eager to help – feeling disconnected from “the system” and powerless to do anything about it.
The PowerNet Group – which believes in a system of government of the people, by the people and for the people – intends to provide an opportunity for any concerned citizen (with or without a criminal record), community groups, non-profit, faith-based, or for-profit company to identify their optimal role and become part of a regional effort to reverse the inequitable and deleterious pattern of criminal justice administration in the Tampa Bay area…and beyond. Only through a diverse, broad-based, community-wide effort can the thousands of men, women and juveniles struggling to avoid initial or continuing contact with the criminal justice system, raise their level of hope and expect their lives to change.