James V. Crosby, Jr.
In accordance with Florida Statutes we present this year's annual report. The Department of Corrections' mission is to protect the public by operating a safe, secure, humane and efficient corrections system.
As the crime rate in Florida continues to fall to its lowest level in 30 years, the number of people sentenced to prison has increased. From June 30, 2002 to June 30, 2003, the number of inmates admitted to prison increased 10.9%. This unexpected increase in admissions required the Florida Legislature to approve approximately $65 million for construction of new prison beds, ensuring that no inmate would be released early from prison. This appropriation will provide operating funds and positions for 3,168 beds in 22 dorms located across the state.
I am proud to report that no inmate escaped from a fenced, secure prison perimeter during this past year. In fact, we have not had a successful escape in the past three years. However, we did experience a tremendous loss during a failed escape attempt at Charlotte Correctional Institution. Inmates attempting to escape from the prison murdered rookie Correctional Officer Darla Lathrem. The loss of Officer Lathrem was immediately felt throughout the department and continues to this day. Darla's death was a grim reminder of the inherent danger of the job of correctional officers throughout the state. As we continue to mourn her loss, we resolve to redouble our efforts to provide a safe environment inside the fence for both inmates and staff.
Working outside the fence, as our thousands of Correctional Probation Officers do daily, can be equally dangerous. Supervising the 152,985 offenders on some form of community supervision (probation, community control, etc.) as of June 30, 2003 requires the combined skills of counselor, warden and teacher. More than half of them (52.8%) were sentenced for drug crimes (26.6%) or property crimes such as theft, forgery or fraud (26.2%). Almost 100,000 offenders (99,123) were admitted to community supervision from July 1, 2002 through June 30, 2003, and most of them (55.4%) had no prior DC supervision commitments. Almost one-third of them (32.1%) were sentenced for drug crimes. The number of offenders released from supervision has increased in the last five years, from 91,690 in FY 1998-99 to 98,064 in FY 2002-03. Of the 98,064 offenders released in FY 2002-03, 30.8% were released from community supervision through satisfaction of their sentences.
The work of the Department of Corrections stretches over the entire state. I am proud of our team and we will continue to strive for excellence as we serve the citizens of the state of Florida.