TALLAHASSEE, FL (STL.News) Under the leadership of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Secretary Mark S. Inch, the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) grew opportunities for re-entry success, expanded recruitment strategies and made meaningful steps to improve the safety and security of operations in Florida’s prisons.
“Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis and coinciding with his commitment to public safety, we achieved numerous successes and identified solutions for FDC’s most significant challenges,” said Secretary Mark S. Inch. “FDC plays an essential role in keeping Florida’s communities safe. We look forward to building on our achievements this year and continuing on a positive trajectory for success in the future.”
Significant Legislation Improved Correctional Operations
On June 18, Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 7057: Corrections, addressing security and staffing within the state correctional system. This legislation expanded the applicant base for correctional officers by changing the minimum age requirement for a correctional officer from 19 to 18 years of age. To date, FDC hired 87 correctional officers who were 18-year-olds.
Additionally, the legislation added state correctional institutions to the definition of “critical infrastructure facility,” making it illegal to knowingly and willfully operate a drone over a prison. The new law increased FDC’s ability to curb the introduction of dangerous and illegal contraband.
Cooperating with Federal Partners for a Safer Florida
FDC applied for participation in the Delegation of Immigration Authority Section 287(g) Immigration and Nationality Act. This initiative enables correctional officers, trained and supervised by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to perform immigration law enforcement functions. Once fully approved, a pilot program will take place at Northwest Florida Reception Center.
Re-entry Initiatives Increase Public Safety and Reduce Recidivism
FDC successfully partnered with 16 universities and colleges to expand educational program opportunities for inmates. These programs include agriculture, business, construction and architecture, hospitality and tourism, culinary arts and other classes.
In May 2019, 47 inmates graduated from the Second Chance Pell Program at Columbia Correctional Institution. The program is a partnership between FDC and Florida Gateway College. Of the 47 program participants, 44 graduated with honors.
Community Corrections implemented a Merit Based Activity program, which rewards and supports positive behavior for offenders sentenced to community control. The program offers activities to motivate offenders to comply with conditions of supervision and accept responsibility for change. Community Corrections staff also conducted 92 resource and career fairs to assist offenders on probation in gaining employment.
FDC partnered with the Florida Alliance of Information and Referral Services to expand the 2-1-1 Hotline. This Hotline is a a toll-free resource for released inmates to receive referrals and assistance after re-entry into the community.
Correctional Health Care Improvements
The FDC Psychological Residency Program earned accreditation by the American Psychological Association. The program is the first accredited correctional psychological residency program in the nation. The residency program operates at three facilities serving mentally ill inmate populations.
FDC began the Lake CI Mental Health Hospital project. The hospital will be a 550-bed mental health treatment facility. The new facility will produce staffing and building efficiencies and will be located near an adequate pool of mental health and security professionals.
FDC created stability and an estimated cost avoidance of $72 million in renewing the inmate health care contract for three years. At no additional cost, the renewal includes the creation and implementation of an Electronic Medical Record system, worth an estimated $15 million. The system will provide real-time, patient-centered records, making information available instantly and securely to inmate health care providers.