TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Today, Governor Ron DeSantis delivered the State of the State address, setting the framework for transformational changes to improve the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC).
“In the year since he took office, Governor DeSantis has provided unparalleled support of our agency and initiated positive changes towards the improvement of our operations. With his continued support, and the support of the Legislature, we will improve staffing levels, stabilize the rising cost of inmate health care, and do more to equip inmates and offenders with the education and skills they need to leave our custody as successful members of our communities,” said FDC Secretary Mark S. Inch. “I share the Governor’s vision for a brighter future for our agency. I look forward to the months and years ahead as we work to achieve new levels of excellence and deliver great accomplishments in our commitment to protecting the public.”
Governor DeSantis’ recommendations include initiatives to improve the safety and security of correctional institutions, address officer recruitment and retention, and improve the re-entry success of inmates and offenders leaving the state’s custody.
Create Safer Prisons by Recruiting and Retaining Officers
At the forefront of FDC’s priorities is the recruitment and retention of staff. Governor DeSantis has recommended targeted retention incentives for correction and probation officers to lower the current high turnover rates and incentivize experienced staff to continue their public safety career. Additionally, he supports a pilot program to convert one third of Florida’s correctional facilities from 12- to 8.5-hour shifts. This recommendation follows numerous national studies that have shown 8.5-hour shifts will reduce officer fatigue and create safer conditions for both staff and inmates.
In response to the rise in inmate violence and the number of inmates in security threat groups (or gangs), the administration recommends adding dedicated security threat group sergeants to 17 facilities. These positions will increase coordination between correctional institutions, reduce the influx of dangerous contraband and help improve the safety and security of operations.
Expand Academic and Career Education to Reduce Recidivism
Secretary Inch has prioritized the expansion of academic and career and technical education within Florida’s prisons. Equipping inmates with the skills they need to succeed after they leave state custody is key to reducing recidivism, reducing the revictimization of Florida’s communities and reducing the costs associated with incarceration.
Improve Health Services
Governor DeSantis has prioritized improvements to the delivery of inmate health services, in line with the evolving standard of health care nationally. His recommendations include the implementation of electronic health records, the design and planning to build a new mental health hospital, and the addition of wellness specialists at correctional institutions.
Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis and Secretary Inch, FDC accomplished numerous successes in 2019. Significant legislation toward the improvement of correctional operations was achieved, as well as further cooperation with federal partners, rebuilding and expanding re-entry programs to reduce recidivism, and improvements and cost-avoidance in correctional health care. To learn more about these accomplishments, visit: www.dc.state.fl.us/comm/press/main/12-23-Accomplishments.html.