Florida’s Prison Crisis
Members of the union representing Florida’s corrections officers recently called on Governor Rick Scott, Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, to call an emergency legislative session to address problems in Florida prisons. An independent audit of Florida’s prison system released last fall highlights chronic understaffing and points a finger at the state legislature for years of budget cuts that have resulted in poor facility conditions, low pay, high staff turnover, and high levels of inexperienced staff at the state’s 49 prisons.
In recent years, the country’s third largest prison system has been mired in cases of inmate riots and widespread attacks on officers. Inmate deaths have sparked federal investigations such as the case of mentally-ill inmate Darren Rainey who died after being locked in a scalding hot shower as a punishment. This year, Florida DOC Secretary Julie Jones requested $36 million from the legislature to fund 734 new officer positions to improve conditions and reduce shifts from 12 to 8 hours. Instead, lawmakers provided funding for 215 new positions. Meanwhile, state spending on contracts with private prison vendors has been increasing. In their letter calling for the special session, Teamster 2011 members characterized state prisons as “a ticking time bomb.”
Kimberly Schultz, Family Law Attorney/ Elected delegate and candidate for IBT Vice President on the Teamsters United slate of candidates for Local Union No. 2011/Former Probation Officer