Both House and Senate budgets omit new staff for troubled prison agency
Despite reports by three independent auditors that turnover and understaffing at Florida's prison system has created a security risk throughout the state, neither the House nor Senate budget proposals give the governor his request to hire 734 additional corrections officers.
Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones made the request for for $18.4 million in December, amending the governor's original proposal which actually asked for more money for staffing needs -- $28 million. Jones said 734 new officers were needed to allow the agency to transition from 12-hour shifts to 8-hour shifts after the audits concluded that the long hours contribute to staff fatigue, inmate-on-inmate violence, and "allegations of inmate abuse, mistreatment, and staff misconduct."
The governor's first draft of his budget, released in October, asked for $28 million to hire 272 additional staff and provide enough money to pay overtime to allow for critical posts to be sufficiently staffed during periods of both planned and unplanned staff absences. The audits showed that prison security is at serious risk because critical posts are frequently left unmanned or understaffed.
But rather than heed those requests, the initial budget proposal from the Senate authorizes 23,892 total positions at the department -- the same number authorized this budget year, but also sets aside $4.3 million in "salary incentive payments" for current employees. The House's proposed budget gave the agency 184 additional positions, for a total of 24,076 -- far short of what the agency was seeking.