Governor and Key Legislative Leaders: PRIVATIZATION FAILED, GET OVER IT.

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Florida Public Employees – The following is an unedited insider’s commentary on the legislature’s intent and the conditions within the Florida Department of Corrections.

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By: Christina Bullins

GOVERNOR AND KEY LEGISLATIVE LEADERS: PRIVATIZATION FAILED, GET OVER IT.  FLORIDA NEEDS A COMPLETE OVERHAUL OF CORRECTIONS AND WHY THE PUBLIC CARES.

Power politicians tried with all their might to privatize a whole region of prisons for 2 years in a row, but narrowly failed.  During that time and since, vengeance combined with a strategy to prep the agency for a run at privatization again has been unleashed by way of significant lapse rates, allowing an enormous turnover rate to go unaddressed, ignoring critical needs to fund repairs and provide safe equipment, blatantly ignoring the statutory requirements to address significant parity of pay issues, omitting the officers for a special issue pay raise that was given to other state officers, the adoption of a forfeiture policy on hours owed to the officer by way of time off or when time cannot be given, pay (outright wage theft of thousands of hours), dropping national accreditation for community corrections, ceasing probation staff from conducting computer searches on sex offenders, on and on………..

Despite calls for a long time for oversight of the prisons by way of a board with citizen involvement, it has not happened. Governor Scott’s transitional team called for such a board.  So why has there been no evidence that the Governor or the Legislative leaders even attempted to make it happen?

They don’t want your oversight!

The agency requested enough positions to purposely run a lapse factor of 5% in 2012, which resulted in lapse rates of 6.7% to 15.4%.  In 2013 the agency only requested enough positions to run at an 8% lapse rate! – ? – !

FDOC Sec. Mike Crew

FDOC Sec. Mike Crew

In September 2013, FDOC Secretary Crews told the Senate Criminal Justice Committee that the agency had big problems with retention and that there were months that they would “hire 100, lose 160 (officers), hire 120, but lose 155”.  The officers leave for other local agencies that pay significantly more.  It’s common sense that the officers getting hired with the local agencies are likely to be the ones that the agency needs to keep the most, the best and brightest.  When the committee led Secretary Crews to water by asking if a raise was needed, because of the retention problem, Crew’s would not agree!  Although the Secretary is appointed by the Governor, there needs to be one that has the fortitude and heft at some point to be able to draw the line and tell the Governor, the Legislature and the public that the agency simply cannot meet its obligation under these draconian cuts.

Yes; the corrections system costs a lot of money, but Florida is a state with stricter sentencing laws than get ’em Texas!  The Legislature and Governor make the laws that dictate the size of the prison population.  YOU HAVE TO PAY FOR WHAT YOU ORDER OR CHANGE IT!

While the Department of Corrections should be striving to be one of the best corrections agency in the nation, the focus instead becomes how do we barely manage to get by which lends itself to covering up the many areas in which DOC is failing.  When hiring and retaining appointed positions such as wardens and probation administrators, there is an overwhelming focus on loyalty.  Loyalty NOT to you the tax-payer, not to supporting and bettering the line officers, but loyalty to the one above them in order to ensure that ALL the ways in which DOC is failing because the lack of support from the Governor is kept under wraps.  In a leading agency of excellence and professionalism, one in which has the support of the Governor, the bad apples would not be there in the first place or would have been long gone.  The message that Warden Cummings has been fired is no message at all.  It has been 2 years and one could ponder if he was not fired before because his bosses knew exactly what happened and in turn, Warden Cummings knew his bosses were told what happened.  Wardens are simply not fired for the most part and the “bad apples” are often promoted!  So what of the warden from Franklin CI at the time of death of Inmate Jordan Aparo?  An adequate message would have been to tell the public that he formed a team to go back and review use of force and inmate grievances in the prisons.

Beyond the fact that the inmate deaths have shocked the conscience of anyone who has one, why does this all matter to the public? If one doesn’t not care about the civil liberties of inmates then at least consider the costs (lawsuits) that are incurred by the state when serious harm or death occurs because those rights were violated.  How about the safety of the good men and women who put themselves in harms way each day to ensure that the inmates stay on the inside of the fence and probation offenders are strictly monitored?

Furthermore, greater than 95% of the inmates will be rejoining society.  At great expense, we incarcerate these folks so if they come out and reoffend not only is there the cost to the victim, but to the taxpayer to again send them back to prison.  There is a plethora of evidenced-based information out there that a corrections agency has incredible opportunities, by the way they run the prison and train their officers to significantly reduce recidivism.  The agency statutory responsibilities to operate in a manner in which when an inmate gets released they will be significantly less likely to reoffend.

– Christina Bullins

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