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

Florida Department of Corrections
Michael D. Crews, Secretary


For Immediate Release
April 10, 2000
For More Information
Contact: Public Affairs Office
(850) 488-0420

Misconceptions about the
Florida Department of Corrections

This following is intended to clarify misconceptions about community corrections and prisons in the Florida Department of Corrections.

Misconceptions About
Community Corrections

1. Probation officers don't supervise serious criminals because most offenders convicted of violent felonies are incarcerated as punishment for their crimes.

Statistics for persons sentenced for violent crimes* in the period 7/1/99 through 6/30/2000 reveal that:

  • 41% were sentenced to probation;
  • 34% were sentenced to prison;
  • 11% were sentenced to community control ( a form of intensive probation supervision also know as house arrest); and
  • 14% were sentenced to county jail

Of the 151,748 cases under active supervision as of January 31, 2001, 41,632 (27%) were on supervision for the commission of a violent offense.

* A violent crime is defined as one of the following:

  • Murder/Manslaughter
  • Sex Offenses
  • Robbery
  • Aggravated Battery
  • Aggravated Assault
  • Burglary with Assault

2. Probationers aren't accountable. It's like paper supervision, not punishment or retribution.

An offender placed under supervision by the court or released by the Parole Commission must abide by "conditions of supervision". The conditions of supervision are mandated by Florida statute (s. 948.03) but the statutes also allow the sentencing/releasing authority to design "special conditions" for the offender based upon the type of crime for which they have been convicted.

The offender under supervision must comply with the conditions prior to terminating supervision. Violation of these conditions may result in revocation and imposition of any sentence which may have been imposed before placing the offender on supervision (including prison) or a return to prison in the case of a prison releasee.

The probationer is required to pay the cost of supervision to the State of Florida, and may have additional conditions requiring payment of restitution, court costs, and fines.

Often, in the case of persons under court supervision, the court will order completion of public service hours which are designed to aid local communities by reducing costs and provide the offender with a means of "paying back" to the community.

Offenders under supervision for drug offenses are often required to attend and complete residential or outpatient drug treatment programs and undergo regular urine testing to check for the possible abuse of illegal substances.

Persons under supervision for sex offenses generally have the strictest conditions of supervision. These conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • Submission of blood specimen for DNA sample in the FDLE database
  • Limitations on where they live, visit and work
  • Psychological treatment
  • Limitations on contact with minors
  • Searches of their homes and computers
  • Curfews
  • Maintenance of driving logs
  • No post office boxes
  • Registration as a sex offender and public notice of sex offender status.

Offenders on community control supervision, in addition to the regular conditions of supervision, must remain in their homes at all times except for work or upon the approval of the supervising officer.

Supervising officers visit all persons under supervision at their homes, employment and elsewhere in the community.

Supervising officers have powers of arrest over offenders on supervision and participate regularly with other law enforcement agencies in planned initiatives involving targeted offenders under supervision who are members of gangs, sex offenders or absconders from supervision. Many supervising officers are certified to carry a firearm for protection.

At any one time, approximately 20% of the cases under supervision are in "violation" status with charges pending before the court or Florida Parole Commission.

3. Drug abusers on supervision are never drug tested or treated.

The Florida Department of Corrections has the largest statewide comprehensive and random drug testing program in the nation. Correctional probation officers use drug tests to monitor offenders' drug and alcohol usage while on community supervision.

The department uses different methods to detect the use of drugs by an offender. On-site urinalysis and breath alcohol testing of the offender in the probation office is often done. The advantages of this testing are that the results are known immediately; it is cost effective (only $2-$3 a test); and it is a useful intervention tool that allows the officer to confront the offender about illegal substance abuse and immediately initiate treatment or violation proceedings, whichever is appropriate.

Community Corrections
Statewide Offender Drug Testing
Over Five Years

chart

The department also contracts with private vendors for laboratory testing of specimens when a violation proceeding is scheduled so that the evidence of illegal substance use meets evidence standards required by law.

The specimen is collected in the probation office and sent to the contracted laboratory for testing. The laboratory tests a specimen for multiple drugs and is more expensive than that of the on-site test.

The above chart shows the increase in drug testing of offenders over the last 5 years.

4. Persons under supervision never pay restitution to victims.

The Department of Corrections has a computerized Court-Ordered Payment System into which payments from offenders are receipted and money is proportionally disbursed to victims, or "payees" of those offenders. At the onset of supervision, an offender has a financial obligation agreement established based on the payees he has been court ordered to pay (restitution, court costs, fines, costs of supervision, etc.) The offender signs this agreement and is obligated to pay the established minimum monthly payment as a condition of supervision. Disbursements to payees are generally processed within twenty-four hours of a payment being receipted in a probation office.

Last fiscal year, the following court-ordered obligations were collected by the department:

Payments Collected During FY 1999-00
Total: $83,252,503**

* Community Corrections also collects other costs (crimes compensation, electronic monitoring, drug testing fees, surcharge and others).
** Total collected for FY 1999-00 does not include COPS payments collected at Work Release Centers.

5. Offenders never work in the community to pay back society for their crimes.

Offenders perform public service work in the community when ordered by the court. An offender who is under supervision provides public service work in the communities where she/he lives in the form of community beautification projects, construction assistance, work or services for public agencies such as the Red Cross, libraries, United Way and many other areas. These offenders are not recognizable to the person-on-the street as an offender because they are not required to wear a uniform as incarcerated inmates are.

A total of 605,852 hours were completed during the period of 7/1/99 through 6/30/00 by persons under supervision . Based on the current Federal minimum wage of $5.15 per hour, this equaled a cost savings of $3.1 million dollars to the citizens of Florida.

6. It is difficult to find out what the minimum qualifications for a (Florida) Correctional Probation Officer are.

The minimum qualifications for a Correctional Probation Officer are listed on the Florida Department of Corrections' Web Site at www.dc.state.fl.us. You can go directly to the Employment Section by clicking on Employment.

7. Not many offenders are on supervision.

Actually, there are over 150,000 offenders on active supervision in the state of Florida. For a detailed report on the number of offenders, types of offenses and geographical population visit the Community Supervision Population Report (http://www.dc.state.fl.us/pub/spop/).

8. No one ever successfully completes probation.

The Department of Corrections and the Legislature have determined that successful completion of supervision is determined by an offender not having any commitments to prison or supervision within 24 months after their release from supervision. Currently, 93% of offenders released from supervision have not been recommitted to prison or supervision within 24 months of their release.

No new commitments within 24 months93.0%
Committed to prison1.0%
Recommitted to supervision6.0%

Misconceptions About
Florida Prisons

1. "Inmates don't work."

On June 30, 2000, there were 71,233 inmates in the Florida prison system. Private prisons housed 3,790 inmates and the remaining 67,443 were in DC facilities.
Photo of Inmates hoeing a planted crop field.

On June 30, 2000 eighty-one percent (81%) of the inmates in Department of Corrections institutions and facilities were assigned to work, assigned to participate in a Substance Abuse Program, Vocational Education or Adult Education, or were assigned to work and a program activity. The remaining nineteen percent (19%) were medically unable to work, participating in a reception and orientation process, assigned to a disciplinary work squad as a result of rule infractions, assigned to a restricted labor squad or were in some type of confinement for management purposes, including death row.

Inmate labor is used to perform work on farms and gardens managed by the Department, construct new correctional facilities, and support and maintain the ongoing operation of correctional institutions. Inmates also prepare and serve all meals, maintain prison grounds, participate in sanitation and recycling processes, and work in PRIDE (Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises) and PIE (Prison Industry Enhancement) work programs. Additionally, inmates are assigned to Community Work Squads provided by the department. These inmates perform services under agreements with the Department of Transportation, other state agencies such as the Division of Forestry, counties, cities, municipalities, and non-profit organizations. In Fiscal Year 1999-00, the DC's Community Work Squad Program saved Florida taxpayers more than $27 million through inmate labor.

Photo of satellite dish.

2. "Inmates have cable television and satellite dishes."

There are no correctional facilities with cable television. The few prisons that have satellite dishes use them for staff training and academic classes for inmates as part of the Corrections Distance Learning Network (CDLN). The CDLN saves money by training staff throughout the state simultaneously and teaching inmates via satellite. The satellites are not used for recreational viewing. Most prisons have televisions available to inmates for use when inmates are not working or attending educational programs. The televisions are located in dormitory dayrooms for group viewing. Most of the department's televisions were paid for by proceeds from sales to inmates from the inmate canteens. However, state law now prohibits the purchase of televisions for recreational purposes.

Photo of inmates farming.

3. "Why don't inmates grow their own food and save taxpayers some money?"

Inmates do grow some of their own food and expansion of the Bureau of Food Service's Edible Crops program continues. In Fiscal Year 2000-01, the Bureau is cultivating in excess of 900 acres and expects to harvest 12 million pounds of produce, up from 3.5 million pounds last year. The number of inmates assigned to the edible crops program continues to increase, due largely to the expanded use of close custody inmates supervised by Field Force Officers. Field Force Officers, mounted on horseback, supervise close custody inmates who are assigned to work in the fields cultivating the edible crops. Usually the squad is made up of four mounted, armed officers and one unarmed (on the ground) supervisor who control up to 75 close custody inmates. These squads currently exist at Apalachee Correctional Institution (CI), Raiford Farm (New River-Florida State Prison), and DeSoto Annex. With the anticipated move to privatize food service delivery in our Department, the edible crops program is moving toward more centralized operations on our large-scale farms, thus allowing greater efficiency in processing and distributing harvested products.

The Aquaculture program was terminated this year due to its inability to remain cost competitive with commercially available fish products, thus reinforcing this Department's commitment to remain fiscally responsible to the taxpayers we serve.

4. "The Department of Corrections determines how long inmates serve in prison."

The Department of Corrections does not determine the length of prison sentences or the length of time inmates serve in prison. These decisions are made by judges and juries, in accordance with state laws and sentencing guidelines. The department is solely responsible for the care and custody of offenders under its jurisdiction.

Photo of tower from cell window.

5. "Inmates still aren't serving most of their sentences."

Offenders who committed their offenses on or after October 1, 1995 are required to serve a minimum of 85% of their court-imposed sentence prior to their release. On February 28, 2001, more than half (60.9%) of all inmates in prison had been sentenced under this law, meaning they will serve at least 85% of their sentences, and that number continues to climb. The average percentage of sentence served by inmates released in February 2001 was 81.8%, compared to 33.1% in June 1990.

6. "Prisons are air-conditioned."

Only six of the 51 major state-managed prisons in Florida have air-conditioning in some portion of the facility housing inmates (specialized units such as medical or mental health are air-conditioned), and many of these are located in South Florida. The following institutions have most but not all of the inmate housing units with air-conditioning: Brevard C.I., Broward C.I., Dade C.I., Hillsborough C.I., and Lancaster C.I. Four were built in the 1970s and one was built by the former Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS) for their juvenile justice programs. In addition, Union CI was built in 1913 and has since been renovated with some of the older buildings constructed in the 70's with air-conditioning. Facilities built under the privatization contract are air-conditioned.

Photo of tower from cell window.

7. "Inmates who get life sentences don't really stay in prison for life."

Today anyone sentenced to life in prison will serve a life term. Offenders sentenced to life for non-capital crimes committed on or after October 1, 1983 are serving life sentences without any chance for release. Offenders sentenced to life for capital crimes committed on or after October 1, 1983 are parole eligible after serving 25 year mandatory sentences. However, if an offender committed capital murder on or after May 25, 1994 or capital sexual battery on or after October 1, 1995, then he or she is not eligible for parole.


Updates to this information can be viewed on the Internet at the following address:
http://www.dc.state.fl.us/oth/