James R. McDonough
For most of the 27,000 men and women who work for the Florida Department of Corrections, 2005-2006 was a year of challenge and opportunity.
Early in the year, we established a Code of Conduct to stress commitment, diligence, integrity and civility, and an Oath of Allegiance to enhance the professionalism for DC employees and remind ourselves of our allegiance to the laws of the United States and of Florida. Our promotions system was revamped to ensure fairness and integrity for all employees hoping for a fair chance in the interview and promotions process.
A new random drug testing policy - believed to be the first of its kind in America and supported by a vast majority of our represented union membership - was established with an emphasis on helping employees with substance abuse problems. Of the more than 3,800 employees tested in the first five months of implementation, only ten employees tested positive and all were referred to the employee assistance program. To emphasize that leaders set the example in all things, senior management were the first to be tested.
Our contract process was revamped to ensure quality and accountability. We audited and reviewed all employee clubs at institutions, and we restructured the Department to optimize its leadership strengths and to allow for more efficient operations.
To ensure an objective outside look while we conducted our own internal reviews, and at the direction of Governor Bush, we contracted with an independent consulting firm to conduct a thorough assessment of the Department. After reviewing all operational components of the agency, the audit came back with a number of recommendations, which we had already begun to implement prior to the completion of the report. The report concludes that the consultants “were consistently impressed with the effort put forth by Department staff in attempting to ‘get the job done.’ ”
Among our other major accomplishments, we:
In addition, we continued to promote Administration priorities, such as the Jessica Lunsford Act, promoted faith and character-based prisons to help with inmate adjustment, 10-20-Life sentencing initiatives for stricter sentencing, “Front Porch” initiatives to provide home improvements for deserving communities, victim assistance to aid crime victims and mentoring programs to assist Florida’s youth. Under this administration’s leadership, and as a result of continuous hard work and vigilant effort from Florida legislators, all law enforcement agencies and concerned citizens, statewide crime totals dropped to a 34-year low and more inmates than ever were serving a minimum of 85 percent of their sentences.
Now squarely focused on the future, we are looking at ways to further reduce inmate recidivism rates, primarily by job training and substance abuse programs. We are studying the possibility of additional construction, agriculture related, culinary, and barbering or cosmetology job training for inmates. Also, we are looking into substance abuse diversion training and other programs to deal with special needs inmate populations, to include the growing number of female inmates, the aged, and the mentally ill. We are exploring the expansion of more partnerships with public and private agencies, including those in city, state and federal governments, and civic or social service agencies because we have a professional, modern, and dedicated agency prepared to do its public duty and handle greater challenges and opportunities in 2006-2007.