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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Audit warns that safety at Florida prisons is compromised by staffing concerns



Prison photo 1Florida’s prisons are infiltrated by drugs, tobacco and cellphones, dependent on outdated security systems, run by inexperienced and overstretched staff, and are housing inmates who are staying longer – and returning just as frequently.

In short, the nation’s third largest prison system runs a daily risk of becoming another headline, according to the findings of a comprehensive study conducted by an independent firm hired at the direction of the Florida Legislature.

“Until these work force issues are addressed, challenges in maintaining a safe and secure system will continue,’’ concluded the report completed by CGL, a prison consulting firm out of Sacramento, California.

Department spokesman McKinley Lewis said the agency "is currently reviewing" the report but would not elaborate on what its response will be. "We look forward to considering the implementation of policy recommendations that are not already in place,'' he said.

The $300,000 for the comprehensive study was tucked into the budget by lawmakers in June after attempts to create an independent oversight commission fell apart in the face of resistance from the governor and the agency.

The researchers surveyed staff and inmates at 14 of Florida’s prisons and administrative headquarters over three months. They included 284 interviews of managers, correctional officers and program staff as well as staff focus groups to “identify morale issues and to capture the perceptions of management policies.”

Of the 45 recommendations for change, many of them are targeted at the Legislature, which has cut millions from the FDC budget since 2010 and has restored only a small fraction of it.

“They read my book on the prison system of the state of Florida,’’ said Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. “The Legislature has to accept the responsibility that we have been the problem for the Department of Corrections. We have to correct that if we want to change the department. It all falls at the feet of the Legislature.” Story here. 

[Last modified: Wednesday, December 9, 2015 4:25pm]


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