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

Florida Department of Corrections
Timothy H. Cannon, Interim Secretary

Eight Misconceptions
about Florida Prisons

This following is intended to clarify misconceptions about the Department of Corrections. You are encouraged to copy and circulate it.

1. "Inmates don't work."

On June 30, 1998, there were 66,280 inmates in the Florida prison system. Private prisons housed 3,740 inmates and the remaining 62,540 were in DC facilities. Eighty-two percent of the inmates in DC institutions and facilities in Florida on the last day of the fiscal year (June 30, 1998) worked, participated in programs such as vocational education or adult education classes, or a combination of work and programs. The remaining 18 percent were either physically unable to work, were participating in a reception and orientation process or were in some type of confinement for management purposes, including death row.

Photo of Inmate preparing dinner.
  Preparing Dinner - An inmate working in the kitchen at Taylor CI prepares cole slaw for the evening meal.
 
Inmate labor is used to construct new correctional facilities, and support and maintain the ongoing operation of correctional institutions. Inmates also prepare all meals, 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 $26.3 million through inmate labor.

2. "Inmates have cable television and satellite dishes."

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.

3. "Most inmates are released early because of prison overcrowding."

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. In a survey conducted for the DC, Floridians, news media representatives and DC staff were asked whether they believe inmates are released early from prison because of overcrowding. Ninety-six percent of Floridians, 87 percent of the news media and 57 percent of DC staff said yes. For more about these and other surveys, see www.dc.state.fl.us/secretary/communications/survey/posurvey.html.

4. "Why don't inmates grow their own food?"

They do grow some of their own food, though it would be difficult to grow enough to feed over 66,000 inmates daily. Last year, the DC's farm and gardening program operated at 64 facilities, covering 462 acres, producing approximately 2.6 million pounds of produce, and logging over 505,000 hours of inmate labor. The DC also expanded its aquaculture program in FY 1997-98 to include Cross City CI. The combined FY 1997-98 harvest from Cross City and Hendry CI's included 15,931 pounds of catfish and 8,567 pounds of Tilapia with an estimated value of $39,190. In addition to growing, feeding and harvesting the fish, inmates assist with maintaining the aquaculture equipment. Next year the DC plans to expand the aquaculture program to up to 12 additional institutions.

5. "The Department of Corrections determines how long inmates serve in prison."

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.

6. "Inmates still aren't serving most of their sentences."

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 1998 was 74%, as compared to 43% only five years ago. When Floridians, news media representatives and DC staff were asked what percentage of his or her sentence the typical inmate convicted today serves, their responses were: 40 percent (general public), 50 percent (news media) and 67 percent (DC staff). For more about these and other responses to survey questions, see www.dc.state.fl.us/secretary/communications/survey/posurvey.html.

7. "Prisons are air-conditioned."

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.

8. " Inmates who get life sentences don't really stay in prison for life."

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.