Walter A. McNeil named new Secretary of Corrections
January 15, 2008
Governor Charlie Crist today appoints Walter A. McNeil to serve as Secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections. Immediately prior to this appointment, McNeil was Secretary of the Department of Juvenile Justice for a year.
“Walt is an excellent leader and has done a tremendous job working with community partners to address the challenges within our juvenile justice system,” Governor Crist said. “I am honored that he has agreed to transfer his leadership to the Department of Corrections, and I am confident he will continue the good work we have accomplished there.
Before joining Governor Crist’s administration, McNeil served as Tallahassee Police Chief and was known throughout the state for being on the cutting edge of the law enforcement profession. With 28 years of law enforcement experience, McNeil has worked in virtually every area of police leadership, management, and supervision. McNeil also served as the Fifth Vice President for the International Association of Chiefs of Police. He graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi and St. Johns University in Springfield, Louisiana.
McNeil replaces Colonel James McDonough, who has headed the agency since February 2006. Prior to becoming Secretary, McDonough served as the director for the Office of Drug Control Policy.
Correctional Officer Donna Fitzgerald
Longtime Tomoka Correctional Institution Correctional Officer Officer Donna Fitzgerald, 50, is stabbed to death on June 25, 2008 by an inmate who was working in the prison's PRIDE program. The inmate, Enoch Hall, uses a knife he made from sheet metal scraps to murder Officer Fitzgerald. Hall, 39, is already serving two life sentences for rape and kidnapping. He faces first-degree murder charges and is moved to Florida State Prison in Starke. Fitzgerald had worked at the prison for 13 years. On Friday, January 15, 2010, Hall is sentenced to death for Officer Fitzgerald's murder.
The Florida Department of Corrections, which houses more than 101,000 inmates and supervises more than 156,000 active offenders in our communities, accomplished a number of goals in 2009, from zero perimeter escapes to opening two new re-entry facilities to tracking down 12,000 absconders and arresting 885 probation violators during sweeps of their homes.
Since the Department of Corrections’ (DC’s) main mission is public safety, it’s worth noting that once again, there were no escapes from the secure perimeter of any DC institutions this year. That success can be attributed to a combination of training and technology, and to our commitment to learning from our mistakes. Keeping our institutions running smoothly and safely, and ensuring public safety inside and outside the fences remains our highest priority. Click here for the DC’s latest escape report information.
In Community Corrections, our absconder unit and key field staff helped track down more than 12,000 absconders from supervision in FY0809, using their rapport with various local law enforcement agencies and new technology to combine forces to apprehend these individuals.
Also this year, more offenders on supervision are successfully completing probation.
Community Corrections was also awarded a $3,448,782 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice that is being used to reduce caseloads in six circuits. The Competitive Byrne Grant funding is being used to train and hire 30 new probation officers in Alachua, Bay, Lee, Lake, Polk and Pinellas counties over the next two years.
Our probation officers held a number of job resource fairs throughout the year designed to assist offenders in finding jobs and housing, and to connect them to local resources for health care, education, etc.
Probation officers also partners with law enforcement statewide on 256 sweeps of offenders’ homes, arresting 885 violators during these sweeps, and seizing illegal weapons and drugs, and pornography from sex offenders.
In Health Services, we will miss the leadership of Dr. Sandeep Rahangdale, who will be returning to the private sector in January, but he leaves behind a very talented team who will continue to build upon Health Service successes and initiatives. Their efforts have saved the Department millions of dollars, even as waiting times were reduced and clinical care improved. It is no wonder that Health Services staff were among the 15 individuals and teams from Corrections to earn Davis Productivity Awards this year.
Speaking of staff, our agency was once again the recipient of the “Cal Henderson Award” in 2009 for being the top fundraising statewide agency for the Law Enforcement Torch Run, raising close to $130,000 this year for Special Olympics.
2009 was the year that we re-assumed full control of our Food Service Operations. Today, we spend less than $3 per day (not per meal, per DAY) to feed the more than 101,000 inmates in our prison system, a remarkable feat. Our inmates continue to grow close to three million pounds of crops every year at 30 different farms and gardens around the state. These cantaloupe, broccoli, cabbage, watermelon and more are used to supplement inmate meals and help us keep costs down. In March this year, the Department asked our new Food Service provider, U.S. Foodservice, to evaluate a Florida peanut butter company based in Jacksonville as a possible supplier for the tons of peanut butter and jelly eaten by our inmates annually. As a result, the Department is saving about $234,000 annually on the cost of peanut butter and jelly, and 19 Floridians and employees of Sunshine Peanut Company who would have lost their jobs without this contract remain employed.
Drug Interdiction, Tracking and Shelter Dogs
We added a second cell phone-sniffing dog, Uno, to our Inspector General’s Drug Interdiction Unit this year, which once again took top honors at the Southern Hills Kennels Drug/Bomb Detection Seminar held in November.
Our institutional tracking dog teams also continue to shine, most recently at DeSoto Correctional Institution (CI), where one of their Tracking Teams saved a lost hunter in the Everglades in November.
We now have five inmate dog-training programs around the state at Taylor, Wakulla, Gulf, Gainesville CIs, and Sago Palm Work Camp (trained for the disabled), and this year we began to feature the dogs on our public website when they graduate from training and are available for adoption.
Last, and certainly not least, are the accomplishments in our Re-Entry efforts. We opened Demilly CI in March and Baker CI in August as our initial re-entry centers, designed to prepare inmates for transition back into their communities by emphasizing education, substance abuse treatment and re-entry skills.
On the education front, the number of inmates earning GED certificates jumped 49% over the last two years, from 1,953 GED certificates earned in fiscal year 2008-09, compared to 1,313 in FY 2006-07, an increase of 640 more certificates earned. And in October we learned that we, the city of Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office received $750,000 through a grant from the Department of Justice's Federal Second Chance Act. The funds are being used to assist former felony offenders as part of our statewide re-entry initiative in the Jacksonville area. We also introduced our fourth Faith and Character-based institution in 2009, Glades C.I.
At 8 a.m., Florida became the third state to have more than 100,000 inmates in its prison system on December 18, 2009. California and Texas are the only other states that incarcerate more than 100,000 state prison inmates.
Correctional Officer Donna Fitzgerald
Florida Inmate Enoch Hall is sentenced to death on January 15, 2010 for the murder of Tomoka Correctional Institution Correctional Officer Donna Fitzgerald.
Statement from Secretary McNeil:
“Enoch Hall brutally murdered Tomoka CI Correctional Officer Donna Fitzgerald in June 2008. The sentence today is appropriate,” said Department of Corrections Secretary Walt McNeil. “For some people, the sentencing of Enoch Hall may signify the end of this case, but for us, Officer Fitzgerald’s murder will never be far from our minds. We have learned from this tragedy, but we can never fully remove the danger our staff faces daily. Being a Correctional Officer is truly a Career of Courage.”
Harry K. Singletary, Jr., was appointed the Secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections by Governor Lawton Chiles from 1991-1999, and was the first African-American to serve in that capacity. He is fondly remembered by Corrections employees for his sense of humor and “walk around” style of management; and for the many innovative ideas and programs he implemented during his tenure as Secretary. Harry died on Friday, January 29, 2010 from complications of Hodgkins lymphoma at the age of 63.
Born the third of four children to a Pinellas County orange-grove worker and a housekeeper, Harry was a star center on Florida Presbyterian (now Eckerd) College’s basketball team and one of the few African Americans in the school at that time. He earned a master’s degree in social services at the University of Chicago and worked in the Illinois corrections system for 11 years before returning to his Florida roots in 1979. After eight years as Assistant Secretary of Operations in the Florida Department of Corrections, he was appointed Secretary in 1991.
During his administration, he focused his energies on prison building, increased staff training, improving technology, Total Quality Management, diversifying the workforce and resolving long-standing litigation against the Department. After leaving the Department, he worked for a number of years with troubled students. Right up to the end, he was mentoring young men from Timberlane Church of Christ, where he was an active member.
He was famous for his instructional catch-phrases: “Don’t bring me a problem without a solution,” “Attitude determines Altitude,” and “You’d better write your plans in pencil, because only God can write in pen.” A devout Christian, Harry had an extensive email list of friends with whom he shared his thoughts and beliefs often, and friends from all over who remember his kindness and generosity of spirit.
His survivors include his wife, Vivian; and his wife, Kim, who predeceased him, and their sons Jon and Harry Kthaw III, and daughter Taiwo McRae.
In Harry K. Singletary, Jr.’s memory, Corrections employees participated in fundraisers and “Light the Night” walks statewide for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in 2010, raising a whopping $82,543.62 to combat the disease and honor our former Secretary
2 FEBRUARY 2010
Harry Singletary, 63, was first black to lead DOC
By Gerald Ensley
Harry Singletary believed all human beings deserved a second chance.
That might not be the attitude most associate with the head of a state prison system. But it was one of many innovations Singletary brought to his eight years as Florida's Secretary of the Department of Corrections.
Singletary died Friday, January 29, from complications of Hodgkins lymphoma. He was 63.
Singletary was the first black person to head the Department of Corrections when he was appointed in 1991 by Gov. Lawton Chiles. Singletary, who spent 30 years as an administrator in the corrections systems of Florida and Illinois, was replaced in 1999 by Gov. Jeb Bush.
"Harry was a real trailblazer," said David Murrell, executive director of the Florida Police Benevolent Association. "Instead of locking people up and throwing away the key, he believed you had to give people a second chance.
"A lot of what he advocated has come to pass (in current corrections philosophy). He was probably ahead of his time."
Under Singletary, the DOC implemented 72 cost-saving measures, added 30,000 beds, increased time served from 33 percent to 75 percent of a sentence, increased collection of victim restitution and court fees and reduced escapes to an all-time low.
Singletary instituted new training programs for corrections officers and advocated for rehabilitation programs and post-prison jobs for inmates.
"Harry took over a deeply imbedded good ol' boy system and really changed things," said state Sen. Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee. "Many don't understand the legacy of Harry, but some of us did."
Current DOC Secretary Walt McNeil said Singletary is "fondly remembered (in DOC) as a 'walkaround' Secretary" who showed up in employees' offices, asked about department problems — and expected them to offer solutions.
"He was a down-home, folksy guy, who said 'If (the secretary) does the dadgum right thing, then (employees) will do the dadgum right thing,' " McNeil said. "He did not mix his words. He said what was on his mind."
After leaving DOC, Singletary spent nine years as an administrator with Leon County's Second- Chance School for drop-outs and expelled students.
Singletary was the third of four children born to a Pinellas County orange-grove worker and his wife, a maid.
Singletary was a star basketball player who spent one year at Kentucky State College, then transferred to Florida Presbyterian College (now Eckerd College) in 1965. The burly, 6-foot-3 Singletary set numerous school scoring and rebounding records, was chosen a small college All- American and was one of the first blacks to play for a previously all-white school in the South.
He earned a master's degree in social services at the University of Chicago and spent 11 years with the Illinois corrections system before joining Florida's DOC in 1979. He was DOC assistant secretary of operations for eight years before Chiles elevated him to the top spot.
He is survived by his wife of five years, Vivian Jenkins, and three adult children.
DC Museum Exhibits
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We hope you enjoyed our History of Corrections and maybe learned a little in the process. While we have done our best to be accurate, we know that it is impossible to be 100% correct! If you spotted an error, please let us know as we would very much like to correct it. (Also, if you have pictures to further illustrate events mentioned, we would love to get a copy and include them.)