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Corrections Facing Cuts, Facing Problems

January 9th, 2009 by Mike Vasilinda

On Monday, a female correctional officer was sexually assaulted at a North Florida prison. The assault comes as state lawmakers are considering laying off several hundred officers. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, officers are concerned fewer officers will make prisons unsafe.

Hear it Here: Corrections Facing Cuts, Facing Problems

Florida Prisons topped one hundred thousand inmates for the first time in December. And while the number of inmates is increasing, the number of correctional officers is on the decline.

The rape of a female officer in Baker County has other officers concerned.

Since the last round of cuts, weve had to critical incidents in the prisons where a female officer was killed and one was sexually assaulted, Jim Baiardi with the Florida Police Benevolent Association said. The staffs backs are up against the wall.

Baiardi has been working the Capitol hallways, trying to stave off more cuts.

The lobbying has been partially successful. Legislation moving through the Capitol isnt as bad as first thought.

To keep our prison gates shut, we are proposing only a two percent overall reduction in the Department of Corrections, rather than the four percent original directive, Senator Victor Crist said.

Still, some officers will be fired.

Who gets fired from where is still up in the air. But of the 500 positions being eliminated, at least half are filled with real people.

But with more inmates and even fewer officers, Baiardi wonders what will keep his officers motived.

Its a dangerous job, lets face it, Baiardi said. But these budget cuts are making it more dangerous. Everyday were walking around with more people that couldnt behave in public.

Negotiations will take place over the weekend, so the number of correctional officers being fired could go up, or down.

The Department of Corrections says there were 854 assaults by inmates on officers last year. While some caused major harm, many were minor in nature. The Department also disputes that cuts are responsible for the rape on Monday, saying, The responsibility for the assault on an officer at Baker Correctional Institution (BCI) should be placed squarely on the shoulders of the inmate who committed this despicable act, not on budget cuts. BCI was appropriately staffed at the time of this incident, as are all our prison facilities.

Posted in Criminal Justice, Legislature, State News | 3 Comments »

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