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

Florida Department of Corrections
Timothy H. Cannon, Interim Secretary

Issue 1: Ensuring Public Safety by Effective Custody and Supervision of Offenders

Issue Description

Protection of the public is the foremost responsibility of the Department of Corrections. Ensuring the safety of the public involves accurate classification of inmates and offenders under community supervision and effective levels of institutional security, community supervision, and community support. Institutional security requires the prediction of prison populations 5 years into the future. However, predicting the future state of crime in Florida is influenced by many variables not under the department's control. In general terms, current trends reflect a decline in the rate of prison admissions and the rate of crime. However, as Charts 1-1 and 1-2 show, the actual overall population of inmates and supervised offenders will continue to increase.1

Inmate Population
on June 30, 1988-1997
Thumbnail of Chart 1-1
Chart 1-1. Click for larger view.

 
Offenders Under Community Supervision*
A Ten Year Overview
Thumbnail of Chart 1-2
Chart 1-2. Click for larger view.
 
Time Served and Percentage
of Sentence Served

by Offense Type (FY 96-97)
Thumbnail of Chart 1-3
Chart 1-3. Click for larger view.

Chart 1-3 clearly demonstrates the increase in actual time served by inmates released from prison.2 Additionally the 1995 Florida Legislature mandated that inmates who committed their crimes on or after October 1, 1995 must serve 85% of their sentence. Increasingly, courts are requiring community supervision to follow incarceration. The Legislature also authorized the Department to elevate the lawful capacity for housing inmates from 133% of design capacity to 150% of design capacity in 1995. Since these and other mandated changes, there are indications of increased inmate tension and unrest. (See Endnote for chronology of changes affecting prison populations.)3

Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) Analysis

Strengths

Strong classification capability:

In December 1998. the department will have in place a comprehensive system that specifically identifies inmate and offender needs while incorporating the risk they present, prior to making important placement decisions.

Demonstrated effectiveness in prison construction:

The department has demonstrated the ability to construct prison facilities in a timely and cost efficient manner, earning national recognition for this important capability.

Tested and proven security management practices:

Numerous security enhancements at correctional institutions have resulted in a decreased rate of escapes from secure perimeters. Increased single cell capacity has enabled the segregation of many violent inmates into close management, apart from the general incarcerated population. The Security Threat Group Intelligence Unit has gained national prominence in combating the impact of gang activity in Florida prisons. Vigorous random drug testing of inmates and drug intradiction operations clearly demonstrates the department's zero tolerance toward drug introduction and use in prisons. Evidence of the effectiveness of security management practices is highlighted by the consistency with which department facilities receive American Correctional Association accreditation.

Meritorious service of a mature, professional staff:

Many correctional officers, correctional probation officers and administrative staff have been with the department for extended periods of service. They have embraced the professional ethic derived from the agency's statement of values. The overall corporate culture reflects the agency's vision and mission as expressed in the Agency Strategic Plan. The department's successful affirmative action program ensures employment of staff who can relate to minority elements of the community or offender populations. A solid training infrastructure is in place to maintain staff effectiveness, including the use of distance learning technology. Quality management training is offered for all levels of the department.

Openness and flexibility:

A hallmark of department operations is a working environment that is conducive to new concepts. Acceptance of new ideas and the ability to assimilate new concepts and react quickly are strong features of the department's staff, as exemplified by the agency's ability to adjust to change and its emergence as a national leader in the development of correctional electronic technology.

Weaknesses

Pressure on classification staff:

The increasing demand to assign inmates to lower risk facilities and work assignments combined with the growing dangerousness of the population is resulting in heightened pressure to take into account other classification priorities along with public safety concerns. This situation increases the potential for violence and/or escapes in the institutions.

Older facilities needing renovation:

Recently, allocations for construction have been devoted to the building of new beds. The needed renovation of older facilities has not received necessary funding.

Distribution and attrition of experienced talent pool:

Rapid expansion of the department to meet increased incarcerated and supervised offender demands has resulted in dilution of experienced management, especially at field staff levels. Institutional management and classification positions are particularly impacted. The latter function is essential to threat prediction and dependent on accurate, experienced analysis and decision-making. The situation is aggravated by the many core staff in institutional management, classification, and community corrections nearing retirement after 30 years of service.

Limitations on support services:

Support services for investigations, audit and management review, have not been sufficiently funded to keep up with the expansion of the system and growth of the field staff; both conditions produce increased demand for support services.

Internal communication effectiveness:

Even though the department has instituted many technical advances, difficulties are still experienced in ensuring that notification of management decisions and the sharing of other important information filters down through the organization in a timely, accurate fashion.

Opportunities

Automation of Inmate Classification:

The department is moving toward advanced automation for information tracking, thereby enabling better monitoring of inmates displaying management problems. With other related department areas making similar efforts, the opportunity is presented to better coordinate, link, and share information through cross-functional working relationships and processes.

Risk Classification Pilot Project:

Implementation of the comprehensive, automated Risk Classification Pilot Project for offenders under community supervision statewide, provides the opportunity to objectively measure the risk offenders present to the public and staff and to increase the level of supervision provided.

Targeted Inmate Identification Program:

Implementation of the Risk and Needs Model, now nearing completion, provides an opportunity to develop a program to better identify inmates who can best benefit from rehabilitative programs and, conversely, those most likely to present challenges to the order and security of a facility.

Organizational scope:

The department's combination of providing inmate custody and community supervision provides the opportunity for continued supervision of offenders and greater public security if courts were to adopt the practice of providing a period of probation or community control following release from prison, and if the Legislature made funding available for the additional staff required and for inmate transition to release.

Flexibility in construction demands:

Recent building efforts offer some flexibility in the housing of inmates, thereby affording the opportunity to make needed renovations and refurbishing of older institutions and facilities, and to plan and build more facilities to effectively manage the most dangerous inmates.

Community partnerships:

Opportunities exist for the department to enter into more partnerships with communities to develop crime prevention programs for urban teenagers, including juveniles. Adequate funding for these prevention programs is required if they are to reach their full potential in steering youth away from criminal life styles.

Threats

Staff attrition due to non-competitive compensation:

The lack of an overall policy and statewide agreement on law enforcement and correctional salary scales results in the loss of trained department staff to local government correctional systems, particularly in South Florida. The situation is such that the department serves as a training ground for local governments, who are consistently successful in outbidding the state's local area salary differentials and attracting outstanding staff to change employment.

Changes in Law:

Continued modification of laws affecting how inmates serve their sentences reduces incentives for inmates to comply with institutional rules and procedures. This has resulted in resentment and volatility among inmates. Sentencing practices indicate increasing use of supervision to follow incarceration, which provides additional security for the public. However, this also increases supervision caseloads and community supervision of offenders who pose a greater risk to staff and public safety.

Escalating violence:

Limitations on inmate TV, weight-lifting and recreational opportunities may foster a more unruly population, posing a threat to staff and other inmates. Consequently there is need for higher security staff ratios. Additionally, the demand for more investigations by the Inspector General's staff will increase. Community Corrections is also impacted by the escalating violence and assaults on correctional probation officers by offenders. As the department identifies more inmate management problems, the ability to effectively isolate the most dangerous inmates will decrease.

Gangs and terrorism:

The department has identified approximately 1,500 inmates with gang associations. Over 300 loosely organized gangs have been identified. Members of criminal groups trained in terrorism who enter the correctional system constitute a disciplined element presenting an internal security risk different from the usual type of offender. The external threat of a terrorist attack on a department facility, either to release such inmates or to make a public statement also is a potential threat. The increase in violent offenders, juveniles, and members of security threat groups affects community supervision practices, as well.

Juvenile offenders:

The explosion of juvenile violence is adding new and untested dimensions to the management of the inmate and supervised offender population, both in regard to the management of the numbers currently adjudicated as adults, and the potential for future admissions.

Public/Community Attitudes Toward Offenders:

Valuable work in prevention could be threatened by uninformed attitudes among the public related to support for preventive programs for at-risk youth and transition programs for released offenders.

Inadequate Funding:

Lack of resources affect the department's efforts across the board. Regions report that salary scales are inadequate to attract and retain good staff. Probation and Parole Correctional Probation Officer to offender caseload ratios remain high. Courts and releasing authorities are requiring enforcement of more special conditions of supervision. New legislation requiring more and enhanced post incarceration supervision is passed without additional funding or resources for such supervision. In spite of the department's successes in lowering operating costs, the demand for increased resources continues.


Goal 1-1: To properly assess, classify and place inmates and offenders according to their risk and needs.

Goal 1-2: Construct, operate, and maintain sufficient and appropriate prison capacity.

Goal 1-3: Operate safe and secure institutions and minimize disruptions in correctional facilities.

Goal 1-4: To provide sufficient numbers of qualified correctional and probation staff to achieve effective and efficient custody and supervision of sentenced offenders.