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Florida Prisons Facing Crisis

October 17th, 2019 by Mike Vasilinda

Violence and contraband in state prisons is going unchecked by underpaid and overworked corrections officers.

Prison reformers warn if lawmakers don’t turn the situation around soon, they may never get the chance again.

Three officers including a Captain were arrested and fired this summer after an inmate captured a video on a contraband cellphone showing a violent assault.

Cheryl Weimar is suing in federal court after an alleged beating by officers that turned her into a quadriplegic.

At least two dozen correctional officers have been fired, some arrested, this year for violating Department policy or breaking the law.

State Senate Jeff Brandes said the prison system in in crisis.

“They’re struggling in a variety of different metrics. Officer and inmate violence is up, inmate to inmate violence is up. Contraband is up almost five hundred percent in the Department of Corrections in the last ten years,” said Brandes.

The violence is blamed on inexperience and 12 hour shifts, which are the norm for officers.

Officers start at $33,500.

So this week, the Department of Corrections asked for an additional $90 million to reduce work hours.

“The negative impact to the agency is undeniable,” said DOC Secretary Mark Inch.

Inch is the 7th Secretary in nine years.

“They’ve basically been rudderless,” said Brandes.

Experts believe staffing up and regaining control of the prisons won’t solve the problems by itself.

They argue lowering the inmate population would make the biggest impact..

To reduce pressure on the system, Democrats are calling for reducing sentences, from 85 to 65 percent, for non violent offenders behind bars.

“Equating to the release of over ten thousand people,” said bill sponsor Rep. Diane Hart.

It is an idea Brandes, a Republican, embraces.

“It’s really one of the only solutions that’s truly viable,” said Brandes.

Brandes has given the department until the end of the year to come up with a master plan, but whether lawmakers embrace it is another question.

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