The U.S. Supreme Court decided the case of Furman vs. Georgia in June 1972. In that case, the Court held that capital punishment was unconstitutional and struck down state death penalty laws nationwide. As a result, the death sentences of 95 men and one woman on Florida's Death Row were commuted to life in prison. However, after the Furman decision, the Legislature revised the death penalty statutes in case the court reinstated capital punishment. In 1976 the Supreme Court overturned its ruling in Furman and upheld the constitutionality of the death penalty in the case of Gregg vs. Georgia. Executions resumed in Florida in 1979 when John Spenkelink became the first Death Row inmate to be executed under the new statues.
Among the many correctional institutions that sprung up during that decade were Cross City, Lake, Broward, Lawtey, Zephyrhills, Polk, Baker and River Junction Correctional Institutions as well as Quincy Vocational Center. Inmates temporarily lived in tents at North Florida Reception Center during an overcrowding crisis.
The Legislature established the interagency community service program to provide free inmate labor to counties, cities and municipalities.
In 1975, the Division of Corrections merged with the field staff of the Parole and Probation Commission to form the Department of Offender Rehabilitation.
The 1970s continued to see an increase in inmates. The state put up tents to house them. The courts once again became involved, stating that prisons could not keep inmates in such living conditions. The prison population increased to 11,326.
As a consequence, inmate Michael V. Costello filed the Costello vs. Wainwright lawsuit, focusing his grievances on the issues of overcrowding, poor food and sanitation and inadequate health care. The lawsuit was settled in 1993, improving living conditions across the board.
In 1978, the Department of Offender Rehabilitation became the Florida Department of Corrections.
Continuing to emphasize inmates' welfare, the Legislature established Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises (PRIDE) in 1981, a non-profit corporation which put inmates to work and gave them marketable job skills, helping them find jobs upon release.
In 1983, Okaloosa CI opened. The Legislature passed the first sentencing guidelines. Parole was discontinued for offenders sentenced after October 1, 1983, with some exceptions. The inmate population in June 1980 was 19,692.
With the onset of the Eighties and the war on drugs, American corrections began growing rapidly. This trend was apparent early in Florida, and in 1984 it became the largest fully accredited correctional system in the nation.
As the inmate population skyrocketed, more tents were erected and a special session of the Legislature appropriated funds for additional beds. Administrative gaintime (time off a sentence) was implemented to relieve overcrowding. However, by the following year, provisional release credits replaced gaintime, which had tighter restrictions for inmate eligibility. By 1989 the inmate population expanded to more than 38,000.
Just three years later, the number of prisoners mushroomed to 47,000. The Gainesville and Brooksville Drug Treatment Centers opened in 1992, since a new kind of offender was coming into the system.
State lawmakers authorized funding for more than 27,000 new prison beds and revised sentencing guidelines for the first time since 1983.
Inmates now serve more time behind bars, especially violent criminals, drug traffickers and sex offenders. The 1995 Legislature required those who committed crimes to serve 85% of the sentence imposed. A life sentence means just that -- an inmate will serve his or her entire life behind bars. That same year six inmates escaped from Glades CI, prompting a system-wide overhaul and implementation of physical security, including metal detectors, razor wire and radios. The inmate population neared 62,000.
State-of-the-art technology began playing a major role in Florida corrections and in January 1997, the Global Positioning System (GPS) used satellites to track the movement and location of offenders in "real-time."
As the 20th century came to a close, an important part of Florida's prison past disappeared. "The Rock" at Raiford, which shut its doors in 1985, was demolished in 1999. That same year, the Legislature convened a special session and added the choice of lethal injection for the condemned.
As we've looked to the past, we've seen milestones and turning points for corrections over the last 150 years. And as we embrace the future, we know there are still many challenges. However, our mission always remains the same: to protect the public by operating a safe, secure, humane and efficient corrections system.