For Immediate Release
April 5, 2000
For More Information
Contact: Public Affairs Office
The Department of Corrections has heard from many people concerned about our proposed new policies for Death Row inmates. While we appreciate their concerns, we have the responsibility to ensure that our policies promote safety and security in our prisons. On the issue of non-contact visitation for Death Row inmates, it should be noted that visiting a prisoner - whether in a contact or non-contact setting - is a privilege and not a right.
Death Row inmates represent a high-risk group because they have little to lose by virtue of their sentences. Currently, large numbers of Death Row inmates are allowed to congregate in visiting areas with their visitors and other inmates and their visitors. This creates an extremely risky situation.
The introduction of contraband during contact visits with inmates is always a concern. While Death Row inmates are subject to intense security, it is not beyond possibility for them to receive illegal items during contact visits. Historically, preventing the introduction of contraband during contact visits has posed serious challenges for correctional officers. If contraband does enter a prison, the consequences for staff can be harmful or deadly. If an inmate uses contraband to make an escape, then the public is put at risk.
Also of concern is the access Death Row inmates currently have to other Death Row inmates and their visitors, including women and children. A potential hostage situation is a valid concern in such circumstances, especially considering that a Death Row inmate has little to lose should his hostage-taking attempt be unsuccessful. It would be irresponsible and short-sighted of us to wait for an incident to occur during a contact visit before we change our policies.
We also surveyed numerous other state prison systems and found that almost without exception, non-contact visitation is the rule for Death Row inmates.
After we re-evaluate and issue the policies (known formally as a "notice of proposed rulemaking"), interested parties may request and we will be obliged to schedule a public hearing to receive further comments and concerns. Any new rules or policies will be published in the Florida Administrative Weekly.