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

Florida Department of Corrections
Michael D. Crews, Secretary

Introduction

The Florida Department of Corrections is responsible for addressing the unique needs of female offenders. The Corrections Equality Act, Chapter 944.24 (3) , Florida Statutes mandates parity in programs and services for female offenders throughout the correctional system. The provisions specifically state that "women inmates shall have access to programs of education, vocational training, rehabilitation, and substance abuse treatment that are equivalent to those programs which are provided for male inmates. The department shall ensure that women inmates are given opportunities for exercise, recreation, and visitation privileges according to the same standards as those privileges are provided for men." The Act also addresses equity in work-release and early release provisions (see Appendix III).

The revised Operational Plan for Female Offenders provides a framework for developing and monitoring a seamless delivery of programs and services for female offenders equivalent to those which are provided for male offenders. Mandatory staff training and professional development will support improved and accountable delivery of services. The Appendix contains reference documents and forms that will assist in implementing and monitoring this plan.

Background

The female offender population in Florida's correctional system has increased dramatically over the past two decades. In 1978, there were 798 women incarcerated in Florida's correctional system. Twenty years later the number was 3,526, an increase of 442 percent. Women under community supervision increased from 4,556 in 1978 to 32,254 in 1998, for a 708 percent increase.1 As one of the nation's largest correctional systems, Florida is at the forefront in addressing this serious sociological and demographic change.

The Florida Department of Correction's 1998 Annual Report profiles the 3,512 women incarcerated in Florida as follows:

  • 53% African-American
  • 44% White
  • 3% Other minorities
  • 59% between 25 and 39
  • 24% between 40 and 54
  • 13% 24 or younger
  • 2% 55 and older.
Only 32.9% of the incarcerated women in Florida are considered to be functionally literate (testing at a ninth grade level or above), and more than 75 percent of the female offenders have one or more children under the age of 18. 2

According to the U. S. Department of Justice , incarcerated women have some needs that are quite different from the needs of men. This is due in part from women's disproportionate victimization from sexual or physical abuse and in part from their responsibility for children. Women offenders are also more likely than men to have become addicted to drugs, to have mental illness, and to have been unemployed before incarceration.

The latest available U. S. Bureau of Justice National Survey of State Prison Inmates reports:

  • More than 43 percent of women inmates (but only 12 percent of men) said they had been physically or sexually abused before their admission to prison.

  • Women serving a sentence for a violent offense were about twice as likely as their male counterparts to have committed their offense against someone close to them.

  • More than two-thirds of all women in prison had children under the age of 18, and among them only 25 percent (versus 90 percent for the men) said their children were living with the other parent.

  • Women in prison used more drugs and used those drugs more frequently than men. About 54 percent used drugs in the month before their current offense, compared with 50 percent for the men.
Bureau of Justice statistics research indicates that the different circumstances of female offenders and their increasing number "point to the need for different management approaches as well as different programming to ensure parity and to provide interventions that reduce recidivism." 3

The National Correctional Association policy concerning female offenders was ratified in 1984 by the American Correctional Association (ACA) . The Board of Governors and Delegate Assembly adopted it in 1995. The amended policy provided that correctional agencies develop service delivery systems comparable to those provided to male offenders for accused and adjudicated female offenders. Furthermore, it recommended that additional services be provided to meet the unique needs of the female offender population. The policy addresses the following:

  • Access to a range of alternatives to incarceration;
  • Acceptable conditions of confinement;
  • Access to a full range of work and programs to expand economic and social roles;
  • Maintenance and strengthening of family ties;
  • Delivery of appropriate programs and services, including medical, dental, mental health, substance abuse, access to legal services, religious, educational, rehabilitative, women's support groups, life skills; and,
  • Access to release programs.
In 1999, the Florida Legislature indicated that "maintaining an inmate's family and community relationships can improve an inmate's behavior during incarceration [and] will help reduce recidivism." The legislation emphasized the importance of enhancing visitor services and programs and increasing the frequency and quality of visits. Chapter 944.8031 (1)(2) , Florida Statutes requires that the department strengthen visitor services in state correctional facilities. It also requires that correctional facilities utilize resources to expand family programs and services. These provisions, when implemented, will serve to strengthen the relationship between incarcerated mothers, children and families.

With the support of national policy, the mandates of the Florida Legislature, and the establishment of a female offender program unit, the Department of Corrections is positioned to strengthen successful programs and services as well as address the ongoing issues and needs of female offenders. This integrated and comprehensive approach is designed to enable women, upon release, to effectively care for themselves and their families without returning to criminal activity.

Goals and Objectives

This section presents the goals and objectives necessary to implement this plan. There are seven goals located within four sections. Each section represents a substantive area within the Department of Corrections: Education and Programs, Staff Development and Training, Health and Wellness Services, Security and Institutional Management.

Each objective identifies lead and support units responsible, as well as estimated fiscal impact for implementation. Appendix II contains the Compliance Monitoring Report (CMR) which details the specific actions and tasks required by lead and support units to satisfy each objective. Each project leader is required to complete, sign, and submit CMR's as directed. When a program has been implemented, the Warden will submit the Program Implementation Checklist (PIC) to the Female Offender Program Unit. Appendix IV includes specific instructions for completing these required forms.


Notes:

  1. Florida Department of Corrections Status Report on Female Offenders, (March 1999) passim. Return to reference in text.

  2. Florida Department of Corrections Annual Report (1997-98) passim. Return to reference in text.

  3. Merry Morash, et al, "Women Offenders: Programming Needs and Promising Approaches" United States Department of Justice (1998) passim. Return to reference in text.