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Rick Scott, Governor
Florida Department of Corrections, Secretary Michael D. Crews

Florida Department of Corrections
Michael D. Crews, Secretary

Secretary's Office
Legislative Update


Rhesa Rudolph
Legislative Director
(850) 488-0987
SunCom 278-0987

The 1998 legislative session officially ended on Friday, May 1, amid the usual last-minute flurry of activity. The department monitored many issues relating to sentencing and enhanced penalties, community notification of inmate releases, sexual predator registration, safety and security enhancements for facilities and institutions, competitive area differentials and benefits for employees, faith-based programs, and budget measures. The following is a brief summary of the major issues and activities from this year's session:

Budget Highlights

The 1998 Legislature appropriated a total budget of almost $1.6 billion for the Department of Corrections (DC), which included the following: Special Pay Additive: Funded a $1,900 special pay additive for correctional officers in counties where a Competitive Area Differential (CAD) was not in effect, beginning January 1, 1999. Security Enhancements: Provided nearly $65 million for fixed capital outlay projects, including $9.1 million to improve security systems, $15 million for new facilities, and over $22 million for secure housing units at existing institutions. Inmate Education and Job Training: Appropriated over $4 million for inmate education and training programs, including work squads, special education, and additional vocational and academic teachers. Community Corrections: Provided nearly $4.5 million for community corrections, including 94 positions and $3.5 million for close-risk supervision. Chaplaincy: Appropriated over $1.6 million for faith-based programs, including clerical support for chaplains and two chaplains to administer new pilot faith-based programs. Technology Initiatives: Funded over $5 million for technology initiatives, including offender records imaging, start-up funding for electronic pharmacy and satellite monitoring, and a mainframe upgrade.

Salaries

Effective October 1, 1998, funds were provided in the 1998-99 Appropriations Act to increase the base rate of pay for eligible career service employees, including correctional officers and correctional probation officers as follows: Employees with annual salaries of $20,000 or less received an annualized increase of $1,200; those with annual salaries of $20,001 to $36,000 received an annualized increase of $1,000; and those with annual salaries of $36,001 or more received an annualized increase of 2.78%. Raises for Senior Management Service (SMS) and Select Exempt Service (SES) employees were discretionary; however, if the agency granted a salary increase, it had to be in accordance with the three-tiered schedule. Professional health care employees received a three percent competitive pay adjustment on their base rate of pay to be effective on the employee's anniversary date. On January 1, 1999, a $1,900 annual special pay additive became effective to increase the base salary for correctional officers in Regions I and II, in counties where a Competitive Area Differential (CAD) was not in effect. Officers in Regions III, IV, V and in counties in Region II where a CAD was in effect received the new $1,900 annual special pay additive to increase their base salary, reducing their existing CADs by $1,900.

Summary of Legislation Affecting the Department

Death Penalty

  • Retains electrocution as the method of execution in Florida but provides for lethal injection if electrocution is ever declared unconstitutional. Provides for the confidentiality of the identity of the person administering a lethal injection.
  • Establishes a central records repository for the purpose of archiving capital post-conviction records. Requires the DC to submit to the repository all relevant public records produced in a death penalty case.
Sexual Predators

  • Amends the "Public Safety Information Act of 1997," relating to sexual predator and sex offender registration and community notification requirements. Clarifies who must register as a sexual predator, sex offender, and as a felon. Creates a third-degree felony penalty for refusal by a sexual predator to have a photo taken. Requires residence verification for sexual predators and offenders in compliance with federal law.
  • Creates "The Jimmy Ryce Act of 1998." Provides for civil commitment of sexually violent predators after expiration of sentence. Requires the Department of Children and Family Services to provide treatment and authorizes the agency to contract with a private entity or state agency, such as the DC for use of facilities. Requires the DC to provide notice to the state attorney and a multi disciplinary team reviewing the inmate within a specified time period prior to anticipated release. Establishes legal procedures for review of eligible inmates, provides for subsequent review of civil commitments, and establishes standards for release.
  • Appropriates $4.9 million and 50 full-time positions to the Department of Children and Family Services and $1.5 million to the DC, to carry out the provisions of this act.
Correctional Officer Bill of Rights

  • Revises law pertaining to officers' rights and access to information and recordings made during an agency interrogation. Provides that formal interrogation shall be recorded on audiotape, and a copy of the recording must be made available to the interrogated officer no later than 72 hours, excluding holidays and weekends, following the interrogation.
Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP)

  • Clarifies eligibility for participation in the Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP) and when the election to participate must take place. Establishes conditions under which a DROP participant may change employers. Limits a member of the Special Risk Class whose total accrued value exceeds 75 percent of average final compensation to participation of no more than 36 months in DROP. Allows an elected officer who reaches normal retirement date during a term of office to defer the election to participate in the DROP until the next succeeding term and limits how long the elected officer may participate in DROP. Allows each employee who elects to participate in DROP to receive a lump-sum payment for accrued annual leave earned in accordance with agency policy upon beginning participation in the DROP.
Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1998(RFRA)

  • Raises the judicial standard used in cases alleging state interference with an individual's right to free exercise of religion. Provides that the government shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion unless it can demonstrate that the burden is furtherance of a "compelling governmental interest" and that it is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest. Applies to all cases asserting free exercise of religion claims, including those involving incarcerated persons.
Notification of Escaped Inmates

  • Requires correctional institutions to immediately notify the appropriate sentencing judge and state attorney upon the escape of an inmate from a state, local, or juvenile correctional facility, including public and private facilities. Requires institutions to also notify these persons when the escaped inmate is subsequently captured and returned.
Domestic Violence

  • Creates a first-degree misdemeanor offense for the possession of a firearm or ammunition by a person who has been issued a final injunction for domestic violence. Applies only as long as the injunction is in effect. Provides an exception for certified law enforcement officers who possess a firearm for official duties.
Florida Punishment Code

  • The Florida Legislature abolished the existing sentencing guidelines and the Florida Sentencing Commission during the 1997 session. The guidelines were replaced by the Criminal Punishment Code, to become effective October 1, 1998. Compared to the guidelines, the code allows for greater upward discretion in sentencing and provides for increased penalties and lower mandatory prison thresholds. Under the new code, the maximum sentence for any felony offense is determined by the statutory maximums as provided in statute. It also clarifies that sentencing courts can impose the sentences for each of the offenses before the court on sentencing either concurrently or consecutively.