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

Florida Department of Corrections
Michael D. Crews, Secretary

Goal 1-5: Educate the public on correctional management and public safety issues.

Trends And Conditions Analysis (TCA)

Public opinion is a powerful force in Florida. If the public believes their elected officials are not ensuring their safety, they register their displeasure at the polls. The department's funding is dependent on the support of the taxpayer and the legislature's votes. The department must educate the public, the legislature, and all levels of government on the critical issues the department faces, especially those directly affecting the public.

Far too often, the department faces negative media coverage. More often than not, our positive programs, community partnerships, benevolent acts, and other successes go unnoticed. In addition, Floridians are of the inaccurate opinion that inmates do not work, lay around all day watching cable television, and entertain themselves with the best recreational equipment. Moreover, when they have served a third of their sentence, many people think the department releases them early so they can return to their life of crime.

The reality is the majority of inmates do work. This productive work is in jobs that directly benefit Florida taxpayers. In the cases of television and wellness equipment and programs, these are population management tools. The use of these tools does give correctional officers additional methods, in their already limited behavior control arsenal, for controlling violent and disruptive inmates. Finally, statutes and the courts, not the department, determine the length of inmate sentences.

A survey conducted in March of 1997 by the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research is the department's baseline data for this goal. The survey is titled Corrections in Florida: What the Public, News Media and DC Staff Think. The department is targeting the section titled Public's Perception of DC's Performance: How Are We Doing. The section focuses on five questions that directly relate to the two issues in the ASP; Public Safety and Programs that enhance the ability of inmates and offenders to be successfully reintegrated into society. The five questions deal with the public's perception of the department's success in preventing escapes, rehabilitating criminals, recovering restitution for crime victims, programs that prevent substance abuse and finally how good a job the department is doing overall. Below is an extract that speaks to the 1997 survey results:

  • Of the general public surveyed 63.6 percent said the department is doing an excellent or good job of preventing escapes. In fact, escapes are at their lowest level in more than eleven years.
  • On rehabilitating criminals, the public (43.2%) said the department is doing a fair job, but almost as many (42.3%) said, we are doing a poor job in this respect. A common, but weak measure, of rehabilitation success is a lower recidivism rate. A February 1997 recidivism study conducted by the DC's Bureau of Research and Data Analysis calculated the recidivism rate at 18 percent, a drop from 39.7 percent from a previous similar study. Recidivism rates for those who completed their GED or vocational certificates are even lower at 17.2 percent.
  • In the survey, the public (72.6%) rated our performance of making criminals repay their victims as poor. More than 60 percent of the public who responded did not know that Correctional Probation Officers (CPO) collect victim restitution. Nevertheless, the public feels we are doing a poor job in this respect. CPOs collected more than $25 million in victim restitution in FY 96-97.
  • In the substance abuse treatment arena, 39.5 percent of the public said the department is doing a fair job of providing drug and alcohol treatment to inmates. In fact, the percentage of those returning to prison after completing drug treatment is lower than the percentage for the rest of the inmate population. For those who completed in-depth Substance Abuse Treatment Programs, the recidivism rate is 15.5 percent, compared to an overall recidivism rate of 18.1 percent.
  • Almost one in four Floridians give the department an excellent or good overall job rating (23.4%). 52.7 percent said we are doing a fair job overall.


Objectives and Strategies

Objective 1-5.1:

Increase by 5% each year the combined good and excellent ratings for the general public in the five categories of the "Public's Perception of DC's Performance: How are we doing?" section found in the March 1998 Corrections in Florida: What the Public, News Media and DC Staff Think survey's 63.3%, 14.4%, 9.3%, 26.8%, 23.4% baseline ratings by June 2004.

Projection Table
  FY 99-00 FY 00-01 FY 01-02 FY 02-03 FY 03-04
Preventing Escapes 68.3% 73.3% 78.3% 83.3% 88.3%
Rehabilitating Criminals 19.4% 24.4% 29.4% 34.4% 39.4%
Criminal Pay Victims 14.3% 19.3% 24.3% 29.3% 34.3%
Drug Abuse Treatment 31.8% 36.8% 41.8% 46.8% 51.8%
Overall Job 28.4% 33.4% 38.4% 43.4% 48.4%

Strategies:

  1. Increase staff knowledge of departmental issues, improved public presentations, and increase the number of educational articles in the department's Compass Newsletter. Lead Unit: Information Services
  2. Increase educational video production. Lead Unit: Information Services
  3. Increase distribution of video productions, video news releases, and regular news releases. Lead Unit: Information Services
  4. Increase educational materials on the DC WebPages. Lead Unit: Information Services; Support Unit: Executive Services
  5. Increase public speaking appearances. Lead Unit: Information Services
  6. Increase number of articles submitted to trade magazines on correctional programs. Lead Unit: Information Services
  7. Increase community awareness programs. Lead Unit: Information Services
  8. Increase visits to editorial boards. Lead Unit: Information Services