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

Florida Department of Corrections
Timothy H. Cannon, Interim Secretary

Public's Perception of DC's Performance: How Are We Doing?

Overall, almost one in four of the general public, and almost one in three of the press say the DC is going an excellent or good overall job. More than half of DC staff give the Department of Corrections a good overall job evaluation.

Next I'd like you to rate the job being done by Florida's state correctional system. When it comes to preventing escapes, would you say they are doing an excellent, good, fair, or poor job?
Job of Preventing Escapes General Public News Media DC Staff
Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent
Excellent10712.9%7721.8%391 56.5%
Good41850.7%18351.7%240 34.7%
Fair25230.6%8925.1%51 7.4%
Poor475.7%51.4%10 1.4%
Total Cases 824 100.0% 354 100.0% 692 100.0%
Cases Not Applicable = 178/12/7

Most of the general public respondents (63.6%) think the DC is doing an excellent or good job of preventing escapes, as do the press (73.5%). DC staff number an overwhelming 91.2% who think the DC is doing an excellent or good job in preventing escapes. This perception is consistent with the facts about inmate escapes, which are at their lowest level in more than eleven years. A total of nine inmates escaped from major institutions during FY 1996-97, compared to 13 the previous fiscal year. Of the total nine who escaped from major institutions, seven (77.8%) were recaptured, five of them within 24 hours.

How about rehabilitating criminals so they will become productive members of society?
Job of Rehabilitating Criminals General Public News Media DC Staff
Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent
Excellent81.0%20.6%47 7.1%
Good10413.4%257.3%188 28.4%
Fair33343.2%14442.2%270 40.7%
Poor32642.3%17049.9%158 23.8%
Total Cases 771 100.0% 341 100.0% 663 100.0%
Cases Not Applicable = 231/25/36

Respondents to the general public survey were most likely to think the DC is doing a fair job of rehabilitating criminals (43.2%); however, almost as many (42.3%) said the DC was doing a poor job in this respect. The press gave the DC a poor rating (49.9%) followed by fair (42.2%). Most DC staff believe the DC is doing a fair (40.7%) or good (28.4%) job of rehabilitating inmates.

Ironically, if the measure of rehabilitation is a lower recidivism rate, that is already occurring, as noted earlier. The recidivism rate for inmates released in fiscal year 1993-94, or the percentage of inmates who committed a crime within two years of release (by 1995-96) was 18%. That figure dropped from 39.7% from the previous recidivism study, which studied inmates released in fiscal year 1988-89 who committed a crime and returned to prison or community supervision within two years of release. (The recidivism rate was defined as a return to prison or a sentence to community supervision for a new crime occurring within 24 months of the offender's date of release from prison.)

In addition, the recidivism rates of inmates who completed their GED certificates or vocational certificates were compared to the rest of the inmate population, and those working toward an education have a slightly lower rate than the rest of the population. Results indicate that GED and vocational certificate earners have a 17.2% recidivism rate, while the rest of the population has an 18.1% recidivism rate.

How about making criminals pay back their victims?
Job Making Criminals Pay Victims General Public News Media DC Staff
Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent
Excellent81.1%00.0%40 6.9%
Good598.2%186.1%123 21.3%
Fair13018.1%8829.6%182 31.5%
Poor52172.6%19164.3%233 40.3%
Total Cases 718 100.0% 297 100.0% 578 100.0%
Cases Not Applicable = 284/69/121

Most general public respondents (72.6%) feel that the DC is doing a poor job of making criminals pay back their victims, and the press (64.3%) and DC staff agree (40.3%). This perception likely results from the fact reported earlier that respondents, including many staff, do not know that Correctional Probation Officers (CPO's) collect victims restitution. CPO's collected more than $25 million in victim restitution in FY 1996-97.

How about in providing drug and alcohol treatment, while in prison, to prevent substance abuse after release?
Job of Preventing Drug Use General Public News Media DC Staff
Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent
Excellent192.8%51.6%119 17.7%
Good16824.0%6320.3%301 44.8%
Fair27739.5%15549.8%195 29.0%
Poor23733.7%8828.3%57 8.5%
Total Cases 701 100.0% 311 100.0% 672 100.0%
Cases Not Applicable = 301/55/27

Most general public respondents (39.5%) said the DC was doing a fair job of providing drug and alcohol treatment to inmates while in prison to prevent future substance abuse. The press was even more favorable, with 49.8% saying the DC does a fair job in this respect. Most DC staff (62.5%) think the Department does a good (44.8%) or excellent (17.7%) job of providing drug and alcohol programs in prison to help prevent abuse upon release. In fact, the recidivism rate for those who completed in-depth substance abuse treatment is lower than the recidivism rate of the rest of the inmate population. For those who completed treatment in Tiers II through V the recidivism rate is 15.5%, compared to an overall recidivism rate of 18.1%.

Overall, how good a job is the Florida state corrections system doing?
Overall Job Rating of DC General Public News Media DC Staff
Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent
Excellent70.9%72.0%157 22.7%
Good17522.5%10128.9%371 53.7%
Fair40952.7%20157.4%145 21.0%
Poor18623.9%4111.7%18 2.6%
Total Cases 777 100.0% 350 100.0% 691 100.0%
Cases Not Applicable = 225/16/8

Almost one in four of the general public (23.4%) and almost one in three of the press (30.9%) surveyed give the DC an excellent or good overall job rating. Another 52.7% of the public and 54.9% of the press believe the DC is doing a fair job. More than half (53.7%) of DC staff say the DC is doing a good job overall, and an almost equal number say the DC is doing an excellent (22.7%) or fair (21.1%) job. Only 23.9% of the public, 11.2% of the press and 2.6% of staff say the DC is doing a poor job of running the state prison system.