Troubled Orange County home-confinement program suspended

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —

The Orange County home-confinement program has been suspended after officials met to discuss the troubled program, which is managed by the Orange County Corrections Department.

After meeting with Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Chief Judge Belvin Perry, jail chief Michael Tidwell said no more suspects would be placed on home confinement until the program could be fully vetted.

Perry said the suspects who are already on home confinement will be re-evaluated.

Officials said there will also be a zero-tolerance initiative, and inmates will now be monitored around the clock.

Earlier this week, 9 Investigates exposed serious breaches in the system that allowed potentially dangerous accused criminals to walk the streets.

There is scrutiny coming from Rafael Zaldivar, whose 19-year-old son was killed in a home invasion. The suspect in the case, Bessman Okafor, was on home confinement at the time of the killing, and Zaldivar said the breaches are to blame for his son's death.

On Wednesday, Zaldivar held up his son's death certificate as he called for Tidwell's resignation.

"And you've got criminals and parasites running around town, and (authorities) don't even know where they're at right now," said Zaldivar.

Zaldivar said it's Tidwell's fault his son's accused killer was on the streets after repeatedly violating the terms of his home confinement.

On the night Zaldivar's son was killed, Okafor allegedly wasn't home when a court order said he should've been.

Tidwell told Channel 9 on Thursday he has no idea what the circumstances were concerning Okafor.

"Why didn't you investigate it back then?" Channel 9's Kathi Belich asked.

"I never said I was aware of those facts," Tidwell said.

"You don't know if there's a culture of complacency at your own jail? If you don't know, who does?" asked Belich.

"I also want to know who knew what and when and why I was not informed," said Jacobs.

Jacobs said she's concerned about a possible culture of complacency at the jail. Tidwell said the investigation will get to the bottom of that.

But Tidwell said he doesn't believe overall that there is a culture of complacency at the jail.

WFTV found out there were more than 109 curfew alerts before that night.

Perry said the judge in the case wasn't notified the man was violating the order.

"The judge may have revoked the home confinement, but we'll never know because he was never told," Perry said.

Channel 9 found several other offenders have gotten around their house arrest order and have been out and about when they shouldn't have been.

"It's an injustice to the state and to the country," said Zaldivar. "People are just out there robbing and killing us, and they're just out there running around town."

Tidwell, who earns more than $147,000 a year, serves at the pleasure of the mayor and Thursday, County Commissioner Fred Brummer blamed the mayor for the mess.

 "She's in charge," said Brummer.

 Jacobs says the county's investigation will be swift, and those responsible will be held accountable.

WFTV asked Jacobs whether Tidwell could be fired because of the recent issues.

"There are no sacred jobs in Orange County government," said Jacobs. "Once all of the facts are uncovered, I will take appropriate action to ensure everyone is held accountable."