For Immediate Release
January 10, 2000
Updated Jan. 13, 2000
For More Information
Contact: Public Affairs Office
Michael W. Moore
On Monday, Jan. 10, I was honored to join Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan and members of the Florida Legislature to unveil portions of the Department of Corrections budget request aimed at increasing public safety and empowering victims of crime.
The initiatives are part of Gov. Jeb Bush's 2000-2001 crime fighting budget recommendations to the Legislature. Long-sought "special risk" retirement for correctional probation officers (CPOs), pay raises for correctional officers and CPOs, expanded tracking of dangerous offenders and initiatives for crime victims are all included in the governor's budget.
The ongoing reorganization of the prison system, which saves $10 million in annual operating costs, is partly responsible for the administration's ability to offer raises in officer salaries. Reorganization has been a challenge to implement, but it has helped streamline the agency, which has saved money that can now go towards essential corrections issues.
State Sen. Virginia Brown-Waite (District 10), chairwoman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, said the raises and benefits package will be welcomed by the Legislature: "I commend and join the administration for its strong support for the men and women who have chosen this tough profession. I look forward to supporting these needed proposals in the Senate."
Appropriate staffing is one of the most important tools in operating safe and secure prisons and ensuring proper supervision of released offenders. This administration wants to ensure that the men and women who deal with criminals on a daily basis, whether inside prison walls or under community supervision, be properly compensated for protecting public safety.
The governor's budget recommends to the Legislature (subject to collective bargaining negotiations) $19.9 million in raises ranging from $600 to $1,500 for a majority of the state's correctional officers and CPOs. "Special risk" retirement will allow all CPOs to retire earlier in their careers while nearly doubling their retirement benefits. This provision will finally and formally recognize the special risks inherent in a CPO's job. Special risk retirement is a benefit that has been sought by CPOs for more than two decades. Most probation officers are on the streets risking their lives in unarmed confrontation with felons. The majority of CPOs work in dangerous environments with little or no back up. They deserve special risk retirement based on the unique risks inherent in their jobs.
State Rep. George Crady (District 12), a member of the House Corrections Committee, praised the department for making the special risk provision a top priority in the budget. "Special risk is a benefit that probation officers and I have been seeking for years," Crady said. "The pay raises for correctional officers will reduce turnover and save money. This administration understands the needs of the corrections community."
The pay increases are based on an officer's rank and length of service. The intent is to provide officers the same pay for the same functions and responsibilities. The competitive baseline salaries are expected to reduce staff turnover, thus enhancing public safety for the citizens of Florida. We project first-year savings of $1.2 million in employee personnel costs.
Correctional officer pay will be raised from an average of $24,903 (in the first year of employment) to $25,500. Officers with three-plus years of experience will receive a pay increase from an average of $26,064 to $27,865. CPO salary will be increased from an average of $27,365 to a base of $29,250. This is a one-time pay increase to establish a competitive baseline salary level, eliminating the inequities in the present system. The pay plan will reduce turnover and assist the agency in retaining first through third year officers. The vast majority of the agency's certified employees will receive an increase based on this plan.
We propose the establishment of baseline salary levels for both the correctional officer and CPO series, effective July 1, as follows:
|Employed less than 1 year:||$25,500|
|Employed 1 - 2 years:||$26,265|
|Employed 2 - 3 years:||$27,053|
|Employed over 3 years:||$27,865|
|Correctional Probation Officers:||$29,250|
|Correctional Probation Senior Officers:||$32,250|
|Correctional Probation Specialist:||$35,000|
|Correctional Probation Supervisor:||$38,000|
|Correctional Probation Senior Supervisor:||$42,000|
If an officer is currently earning above these baseline salaries, his or her pay will remain unchanged. This budget proposal is for the base salary, which is aimed at helping recruitment and reducing turnover. We have found that if correctional officers remain with DOC for at least three years, the likelihood of long-term retention increases dramatically. I have also directed my staff to actively study ways to address the salary issues of those correctional officers and CPOs not affected by the proposed plan, such as pay for seniority.
Increasing offender supervision is a key goal of the Department of Corrections. One initiative seeks a change in the law that would require mandatory supervision for each inmate released from prison. This would allow DOC to expand supervision of inmates after their release until they have satisfied the full length of their sentences, regardless of their offense.
For example, if an offender were released after serving 12 years of a 15-year sentence, this initiative would mandate the department to supervise him for the remaining three years, even if probation was not court-ordered at the time of sentencing. This law would apply only to offenders who commit crimes on or after the day the new statute is enacted.
Expanding the use of the GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) system to track the most serious offenders is another improvement DOC hopes to make. GPS is state-of-the-art technology that allows us to track an offender's movements with great precision. The offender wears an electronic ankle bracelet, allowing constant monitoring of his location to determine his compliance with probation.
The system also allows DOC to electronically "rope off" areas such as the victim's residence and place of employment, or even a school or nursing home, when an offender violates these boundaries. We will continue to use conventional radio frequency devices to track less serious offenders. The governor's budget includes a proposal to invest $5.4 million in monitoring offenders, providing an additional 1,400 additional GPS units to monitor 2,800 offenders on community control. This proposal mainly targets sex offenders and other predatory criminals.
In addition to seeking increased supervision of offenders, I want to make victims' rights a top priority for DOC. We seek to empower crime victims, our key stakeholders, by keeping them informed of the whereabouts and status of released offenders. Victims of crime registered with DOC receive notification by phone as well as in writing when an offender is to be released. Through a toll-free victim service hotline (877-8VICTIM) victims and the public can obtain the latest information on the status of any inmate. The system has notified almost 9,000 victims since August 1999, managing more than 85,000 incoming and outgoing calls.
Last year, we unveiled VINE (Victim Information and Notification Everyday), a 24-hour toll-free hotline (877-VINE-4FL) that proactively notifies crime victims of the whereabouts of offenders. Members of the public may also register for notification by calling the toll-free number. The governor's budget provides $1.4 million to implement automated notification statewide, so crime victims will be able to find out information about prisoners in local jails in addition to those in the state prison system. The statewide system will also notify law enforcement and the courts of the status of the offender. Statewide implementation will benefit city and county governments, local law enforcement agencies, the public and crime victims.