Misconceptions About Florida Prisons

Posted: January 26, 2012 in News and politics

This following is intended to clarify misconceptions about the Department of Corrections. You are encouraged to copy and circulate it.

1. “Prisons are air-conditioned.”

Photo of dormitory with fans.

Only ten of the major state-managed prisons in Florida have air-conditioning in some portion of the facility housing inmates, and many of these are located in South Florida. The following institutions have air-conditioning in the areas indicated: Youthful Offender institution Lancaster C.I. (9 dorms and confinement area); Union C.I. (13 dorms); Youthful Offender institution Brevard C.I. (all dorms); Lake C.I. and Zephyrhills C.I. (a/c installed in Mental Health areas in 1997 at Lake C.I. and 1995 at Z.C.I.); female institutions Broward C.I., Hillsborough C.I. and Homestead C.I. (all dorms); Dade C.I. (Mental Health area) and Charlotte C.I. (Mental Health area air conditioned in FY 1994-95) The six Florida prison facilities built under the privatization contract are also air-conditioned.

2. “Inmates don’t work.”

Photo of Inmate Mowing
Photo of Inmate Using Machinery

On February 17, 2011, there were 101,892 inmates in the Florida prison system. About 80% of them are assigned to work, assigned to participate in a Substance Abuse Program, or Vocational Education or Adult Education, or are assigned to some other program activity. The remaining 20% are medically unable to work, or are participating in the reception and orientation process, assigned to a disciplinary work squad as a result of rule infractions, assigned to a restricted labor squad or are 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, perform repairs and renovations to facilities and otherwise 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) or 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 2009-10, the DC’s Community Work Squad inmates worked 6.6 million hours in our communities, saving Florida taxpayers more than $59 million.

Photo of dormitory dayroom.

3. “Inmates have cable television and satellite dishes.”

There are no correctional facilities with cable television. Television reception in our prisons is from the antennae only. Prior to 1994, money generated for the Inmate Welfare Trust Fund was utilized to purchase and maintain televisions for general inmate use. Since that time most televisions have been received through donations. In 1994 the Florida Legislature amended s. 945.215, Florida Statutes, to prohibit the use of  funds in the Inmate Welfare Trust Fund or any other trust fund to purchase cable television service, to rent or purchase video cassettes, video cassette recorders, or other audio-visual or electronic equipment used primarily for recreation purposes.  The inmate welfare trust fund was abolished in 2003 and all funds were deposited into General Revenue. All statutory provisions related to the inmate welfare trust fund were deleted. Television privileges provide a valuable management tool to influence inmate behavior and serve to eliminate inmate idleness. Inmates have access to educational and wellness programs through television.  The department maintains televisions for general inmate use in dayrooms, in educational programs, and  to provide required programming for close management inmates. Local channel broadcast signals are received through the use of antennas.

Photo of inmates farming.

4. “Why don’t inmates grow their own food and save taxpayers some money?”

They do, but we don’t have sufficient land to grow enough crops to feed all of the inmates each year. Further, because of unpredictable weather conditions that often lead to crop loss, the crops that we do harvest are used to reduce produce purchases, not replace them. Each of the department’s four regions has a farm manager who is responsible for developing an annual plan to grow food crops, which are served to the inmate population.  In Fiscal Year 2009-10, the Bureau cultivated approximately 1,700 acres at over 36 different farms and gardens and harvested over 4.8 million pounds of produce including broccoli, cabbage, cantaloupe, watermelon, bell peppers, carrots, peas, tomatoes and more. The edible crops program not only provides produce to help offset the cost of food but it also teaches farm techniques including herbicides application, crop rotation, and fertilization.  These agricultural techniques can be used upon re-entry to obtain employment in a variety of different occupations.

Photo of inmates behind gate.

5. “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. Judges and juries, in accordance with state laws and sentencing guidelines, make these decisions. The department is solely responsible for the care and custody of offenders under its jurisdiction.

6. “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 sentences prior to their release. Offenders released in January 2011 served an average of 86.4% of their sentence. <!–For the latest available statistics on the amount of time released inmates served, go to http://www.dc.state.fl.us/pub/timeserv/monthly/index.html–>

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