May 16, 2016
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Published: May/June 2016
By: Dr. Elizabeth Gondles
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Decades ago, mentally ill offenders in the country’s prisons and jails were the exception, and training correctional staff on how to manage them was practically non-existent. Today, the number of mentally ill offenders in the U.S. is at an all-time high, and that number continues to grow within the criminal justice system.
The Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) experience with mentally ill inmates mirrors that of the nation in terms of the size of its mentally ill population. While its total population grew 57 percent between 1996 and 2013, the population of mentally ill inmates grew 153 percent.
Julie Jones, secretary of FDC, assessed how to best meet the challenge. She quickly identified training as paramount for Florida’s security and frontline staff and was of critical importance in managing FDC’s mentally ill corrections population.
When Jones learned about the development of the ACA’s CBHC, she engaged her agency to become enthusiastic stakeholders…Consistent with her emphasis on leadership by example, Jones required that the first 55 of her executive-level staff – including correctional leadership staff from FDC’s institutions, community correctional systems, regional offices and central office – enroll in the certification program.
FDC achieved what is perhaps the most important and relevant certification in corrections, the first 55 people in the nation to be awarded CBHC. This would not have happened without the commitment and leadership of Jones’ recognizing the critical need that corrections is facing in managing the mentally ill and securing behavior health traing for correctional staff. ACA is very proud of FDC and Jones’ leadership.
As Florida's largest state agency, the Department of Corrections employs 24,000 members statewide, incarcerates approximately 98,000 inmates and supervises nearly 140,000 offenders in the community.