On June 30, 1997, there were 64,713 inmates in the Florida prison system. Private prisons housed 3,922 inmates and the remaining 60,791 were in DC facilities. Eighty-three percent of the inmates in DC institutions and facilities in Florida on the last day of the fiscal year (June 30, 1997) worked, participated in programs such as vocational or academic classes, or a combination of work and programs. The remaining 17 percent were either physically unable to work, were going through the reception and orientation process or were in some type of confinement for management purposes, including death row.
Inmate labor is used to construct new correctional facilities, and support and maintain the ongoing operation of correctional institutions. Inmates also cook, help maintain prison grounds, farm and garden, participate in sanitation and recycling processes, and work for PRIDE (Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises) and PIE (Prison Industry Enhancement) programs. Additionally, inmates are assigned to the department's Community Work Squad program. These inmates perform services under agreements with the Department of Transportation, other state agencies such as the Division of Forestry, and the Department of Highway Safety, counties, cities, municipalities, and non-profit organizations. Last fiscal year, the DC's Community Work Squad Program saved Florida taxpayers $23.5 million through inmate labor.
They do grow some of their own food, though it would be difficult to grow enough to feed over 64,000 inmates daily. Last year, the DC's farm and gardening program expanded to 66 facilities, covering 436 acres, producing almost 3.4 million pounds of vegetables, and logging over 534,000 hours of inmate labor. In addition, the department has aquaculture programs at Hendry and Cross City CI's. These programs involve the raising and harvesting of freshwater fish for consumption by the inmates. This fiscal year, inmates harvested 1,553 pounds of catfish and 4,289 pounds of tilapia, valued at $13,518.
Inmates are working behind the scenes in almost every community in the state. Some examples:
There are no correctional facilities with cable television. The few prisons that have satellite dishes use them for staff training and academic classes for inmates as part of the Corrections Distance Learning Network (CDLN). The CDLN saves money by training staff throughout the state simultaneously and teaching inmates via satellite. The satellites are not used for recreational viewing. Most prisons have televisions available to inmates for use when inmates are not working or attending educational programs. The televisions are located in dormitory dayrooms for group viewing. Most of the department's televisions were paid for by proceeds from sales to inmates from the inmate canteens. However, state law now prohibits the purchase of televisions for recreational purposes.
No inmates have been released early from prison because of overcrowding since December 1994. Early release began in February 1987. In FY 1987-88, 89% of inmates released from prison that year benefited from some time off their sentence due to overcrowding. Early release, also known as Control Release, ended in December 1994 for several reasons: declining admissions, accelerated prison construction and an increase in prison bed funding and diversionary programs.
The Department of Corrections does not determine the length of prison sentences or the length of time inmates serve in prison. These decisions are made by judges and juries, in accordance with state laws and sentencing guidelines. The department is solely responsible for the care and custody of offenders under its jurisdiction.
For offenses committed on or after October 1, 1995, inmates are required to serve a minimum of 85% of their sentences. Since most of the inmates in prison today committed their crimes before that date, the 85% rule will not apply to them, though the percentage of their sentence they are serving continues to rise. The average percentage of sentence served by inmates released in June 1997 was 71%, as compared to 34% only five years ago.
Only seven of the 55 major state-managed prisons in Florida have air-conditioning in some portion of the facility, and many of these are located in South Florida. The following institutions have air-conditioning: Brevard C.I., Broward C.I., Dade C.I., Hillsborough C.I., and Lancaster C.I. Four were built in the 1970s and one was built by the former Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS) for their juvenile justice programs. In addition, Union CI was built in 1913 and has since been renovated with air-conditioning in some areas, such as its hospital. Corrections Mental Health Institution (CMHI), which houses mentally ill inmates, is air-conditioned. Facilities built under the privatization contract are air-conditioned.
Today anyone sentenced to life in prison will serve a life term. Offenders sentenced to life for non-capital crimes committed on or after October 1, 1983 are serving life sentences without any chance for release. Offenders sentenced to life for capital crimes committed on or after October 1, 1983 are parole eligible after serving 25 year mandatory sentences. However, if an offender committed capital murder on or after May 25, 1994 or capital sexual battery on or after October 1, 1995, then he or she is not eligible for parole.
Survey Results of General Public and News Media
In March 1997, the University of Florida's Bureau of
Economic and Business Research conducted a telephone survey of
1,002 Floridians at the request of the Department of Corrections.
The purpose of the survey was to gather baseline data on the
general public's knowledge and image of the DC, as required in
the DC's Agency Strategic Plan. In June 1997, an identical
survey of 366 news media representatives was conducted.
The following are some of the results of those surveys.
Time Served and Overcrowding