Regardless of pushback earlier this yr for a plan to shutter some state prisons in Florida’s rural areas the place the communities depend on their financial influence, the Florida Division of Corrections is transferring ahead with “strategically consolidating” a number of Northeast Florida prisons.
Baker Correctional Establishment and New River Correctional Establishment in Bradford County will shut, and Cross Metropolis Correctional Establishment, which was already evacuated due to flooding, will stay empty, FDC mentioned.
All FDC staff shall be briefly reassigned to a neighboring establishment. Workers won’t lose their job or rank, as these measures are non permanent, the division mentioned.
FDC mentioned the inmates shall be briefly relocated and they won’t be launched early.
Jim Baiardi, the president of the Corrections Chapter of the Police Benevolent Affiliation, told the Miami Herald that some work camps, together with Gainesville Work Camp, and smaller jail annexes in different components of the state may shut quickly too.
“This isn’t the answer to the disaster. This can be a non permanent band-aid. The variety of officers transferring will not be going to unravel the emptiness downside,” Baiardi instructed the Herald.
FDC mentioned it has applied the next measures to deal with staffing at establishments:
Persevering with transitioning correctional establishments from 12-hour shifts to eight.5-hour shifts, as beneficial by nationwide consultants, and strongly supported by way of knowledge evaluation of security developments
Providing $1,000 hiring bonuses at establishments with 10% or extra workers emptiness price
Providing $1,000 hiring bonus for returning licensed workers
Growing the speed of pay to $33,500 for (non-certified) correctional officer trainees
Hiring part-time licensed correctional officers
Consolidated work camps and annexes into fundamental establishments
Senate Legal Justice Vice Chair Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, instructed the Herald the choice to shut prisons is a determined one.
“This could come as a shock to no person as a result of, primarily, we’ve been handled just like the boy who cried wolf for years and, sadly, at this juncture, the wolf has come,” Brandes instructed the Herald. “The problem that we’re seeing inside the division is that there are vacant positions everywhere.”
Earlier this yr, Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson’s proposal to consolidate prisons and demolish 4 amenities drew bipartisan pushback when it was launched as lawmakers started to piece collectively subsequent yr’s state funds.
Florida has greater than 145 correctional amenities — together with prisons, annexes and work camps — all through the state, with a focus in North Florida. Almost 60% of the amenities are situated in rural counties, in keeping with a 2019 report by the Legislature’s Workplace of Program Coverage Evaluation and Authorities Accountability.
The oldest jail nonetheless in operation, Union Correctional Establishment situated in Raiford, was inbuilt 1913. Union and Bradford counties have 9 amenities — together with 5 main establishments — in a North Florida area often known as the “iron triangle.”
State prisons not solely present direct jobs for corrections employees however have a cascading influence on the encircling communities, the place staff purchase groceries, eat at eating places, attend colleges and buy houses.
Rural areas with correctional amenities additionally profit from individuals who patronize native companies as they make journeys to go to family members or pals who’re incarcerated.
And since inmates are included in counties’ census counts, the lack of prisoners may end in a major lower in state and federal revenue-sharing funds, which Levy County Commissioner John Meeks mentioned would deal “one other devastating blow” to rural areas.
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