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Corrections Officers Worried

March 10th, 2009 by Mike Vasilinda

Hundreds of corrections and probation and parole officers worried about their jobs demonstrated in Tallahassee today. As Mike Vasilinda tells us,  66 probation officers were laid off in January, and more layoffs could be on the way.

66 Prole and probation officers cut loose in January were fired because the Department of Corrections is over budget.  State Senator Arthenia Joyner told a crowd of officers that fewer of them means higher case loads.

“You can’t keep me safe if you got 120, 130,40,50 people to monitor”.  Says Joyner.

One of the 66 let go was Brian Seals. Brian joined several hundred other officers at the state Capitol who are worried tight budgets could mean their jobs too.

“There was no indication that this was coming up’ says Seals. We were called on Thursday and told Friday afternoon we are laid off”.

One good sign is the growth in the prison population is slowing. Still, Corrections spokesperson Gretl Plessiinger  the state is planning more prisons. “We had originally thought we would have to build nineteen prisons over the next five years. But the Criminal Justice estimating conference…their latest estimates show we are not growing as fast”.

Money spent on hundred million dollar prisons can’t be spent on salaries. One alternative being discussed is to identify inmates who got busted here..have no ties to Florida and ship them out. State Senator Victor Crist is the man in charge of prison funding, and he says the idea could helps Florida and other states.

“It helps them because it gives them cash flow for beds that wouldn’t otherwise be productive” says Crist. “And it helps us because that means we don’t have to build an expensive cell”.

As the officers swarmed the capitol, they found sympathetic lawmakers, but few who would promise that more cuts and higher caseloads weren’t on the way. Brian Seals will begin work next week as a correctional officer at a prison in Volusia County. He would prefer to be on the outside supervising parolees.

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