TALLAHASSEE — On Dec. 23, Secretary Mark Inch highlighted bold steps the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) has taken in 2020 to further Florida’s public safety mission.
“We did not allow the challenges of this year to halt or derail our mission. Under Governor DeSantis’s leadership, our actions positioned us as a national example of a steadfast commitment to public safety and I am immensely proud of our agency,” Secretary Inch said. “We achieved landmark legislative success as we addressed the first steps of our recruitment and retention plan, improved the safety and efficiency of our operations and expanded our rehabilitation and restoration programming. We established innovative and responsive health care approaches in unprecedented times.”
Gov. DeSantis prioritizes recruitment and targeted retention incentives to improve staffing
• Under the leadership of Gov. DeSantis and the direction of the Legislature, FDC converted 17 of Florida’s correctional facilities from 12- to 8.5-hour shifts. The 8.5-hour schedule improves the overall safety for staff and inmates by decreasing the introduction of contraband, more effectively combats gang activity, increases positive work-life balance and promotes a collaborative work environment among staff.
• Received targeted retention incentives for certified officers to lower high turnover rates and incentivize experienced staff to continue their public safety career with FDC.
Continues investments in inmate and offender restoration and rehabilitation
• Gov. DeSantis signed SB 1116: Trust Funds and SB 1118: Inmate Welfare Trust Funds. SB 1118 authorizes the deposit of up to $2.5 million to invest in inmate programming, such as literacy, education, vocational, substance abuse, transition and life skills training, family and wellness programs, visiting services, inmate chapels and libraries.
• Enhanced and expanded the Commercial Driving License (CDL) Training Program, Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, Florida HIRES program and Second Chance Pell Program, a nationally accredited program enabling inmates to obtain college degrees while incarcerated. Increased opportunities and partnerships to provide inmates with the marketable skills, education and certifications needed for a smooth and successful transition into the job market after their release.
• Through contract negotiations, FDC began providing all inmates statewide with electronic tablets at no cost to the state or inmates, allowing for more access to education, enhanced communication, and tools to combat inmate idleness.
Bolsters partnerships for a safer Florida
• Entered into the Federal 287(g) Program partnership with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The program establishes guidelines and conditions for ICE to gather citizenship information and immigration status of an inmate to make a final determination of further proceedings.
Establishes the Florida Foundation for Correctional Excellence
• Gov. DeSantis created the Florida Foundation for Correctional Excellence (FFCE), a direct support organization designed to strengthen public and private partnerships to increase investment in re-entry programs and workforce training.
Safer and secure correctional institutions
• Established two specialty position classes to reduce violence and health care costs and create more effective operations. Security Threat Group (STG) sergeants will better manage STG (gang) members. Wellness specialists will run programs designed to reduce inmate idleness, decrease health care costs and reduce incidents requiring disciplinary action. Together, these positions increase the safety and security of institutions.
• Received national reaccreditation from the American Correctional Association (ACA) at Apalachee, Avon Park, Baker, Calhoun, Columbia, Dade, DeSoto, Hamilton, Hernando, Holmes, Homestead, Lake, Liberty, Okaloosa, Okeechobee and Walton Correctional Institutions. The institutions were 100% compliant in mandatory standards and exceeded 98% for non-mandatory standards.
Improves health care infrastructure
• Executed the contract to begin building the Lake CI Mental Health Hospital, a 550-bed mental health treatment facility. The facility will produce staffing and building efficiencies and will be located near an adequate pool of mental health and security professionals.
• Continued development of the Electronic Medical Record system, designed to deliver patient records in real-time, making information available instantly and securely to inmate health care providers. This system was negotiated into the health services contract with an estimated value of $15 million.
• Enhanced telehealth capabilities in response to COVID-19 facility restrictions. FDC worked with Centurion of Florida and county health departments to implement telehealth at many facilities to ensure continuity and swift care of inmates.
Addresses aging infrastructure
• Completed more than 60 major architectural and hurricane recovery projects statewide.
Expands opportunities for inmates and offenders
• Reestablished substance use treatment programs eliminated in previous years due to budget deficits. FDC was appropriated sufficient funding and increased treatment and prevention seats by 35% for inmates and by 65% for offenders on supervision.
Establishes new population management strategies
• Created the framework for Short Sentence Correctional Institutions to house inmates with less than one year to serve. Programs and treatment will address the unique needs of the inmates during their short stay in custody. Programming includes inmate-led mentoring. FDC assembled a team of 10 inmates to design the inmate-led mentoring program. Mentoring focuses on reducing violence and providing guidance to inmates with short sentences, with the goal of successfully restoring them to their communities as law abiding citizens.
Responds to COVID-19
• Mitigation efforts helped ensure more than 83% of the inmate population from contracting COVID-19. Statewide, 97% of inmates who tested positive for COVID-19 have been cleared from medical isolation and 90% of staff have been cleared to return to work.
• FDC deployed an Essential Health Care Services Plan, implementing statewide institutional protocols for enhanced cleaning, personal protective equipment use, screening and the creation of a medical triage system for affected inmates. Positive and symptomatic patients were placed in medical isolation, and close contacts were placed in medical quarantine for observation. FDC immediately responded to confirmed positive cases by conducting broad-based inmate and staff testing at affected institutions.
• Procured and distributed Personal Protective Equipment for correctional institutions and probation offices, acquiring more than 250,000 N95 masks, 2.5 million surgical masks, 430,000 boxes of gloves, 5,000 pairs of eye protection, more than 50,000 units of gowns and overalls, 60,000 testing kits and 6,000 gallons of hand sanitizer.
• Community Corrections rapidly developed innovative methods to continue supervising offenders on probation efficiently while maintaining public safety. Since March, probation officers conducted 797,000 field contacts, 395,000 office contacts, 195,000 treatment contacts, 741,000 telephone contacts, 40,500 curfew checks, 95,000 walk-throughs, 4,400 searches and 95,000 on-site drug tests.
• Created a comprehensive COVID-19 dashboard, that provides transparency to Floridians regarding the number of COVID-19 positive cases within Florida’s correctional system.
• FDC, one of only nine state correctional systems in the nation, instituted statewide modified visitation in response to DeSantis’ Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step Plan for reopening Florida. Visitation is one of FDC’s paramount priorities to support the family unit and promote vital family bonds.
• Developed robust safety standards to allow new inmate admissions from Florida’s county jails.
• Maintained academic programming for inmates by implementing remote instruction, developing individualized education packets and delivering them directly to inmates in their housing units. In 2020, 679 inmate students earned GEDs, 1,196 career and technical education certificates were conferred, and 1,949 industry credentials were awarded.