Posts Tagged ‘Department of Corrections’

Inmates with hepatitis C, and their chief advocate, race against time

Tuesday, November 27th, 2018

By Noreen Marcus
FloridaBulldog.org
A federal judge ordered Florida to give thousands of prisoners with chronic Hepatitis C virus a standard treatment with a cure rate of 95 percent. A year later, Florida could move faster to save lives.
The post Inmates with hepatitis C, and their chief advocate, race against time appeared first on Florida Bulldog.

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Before deaths, Gov. Rick Scott and Hollywood nursing home owner were chummy

Thursday, October 26th, 2017

By Dan Christensen
FloridaBulldog.org
Before Gov. Rick Scott and South Florida healthcare mogul Dr. Jack Michel began pointing fingers at each other after elderly patients baked to death in Michel’s now-closed Hollywood nursing home, the two men were pals of a sort.
The post Before deaths, Gov. Rick Scott and Hollywood nursing home owner were chummy appeared first on Florida Bulldog.

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Lawyers for the state tell Senate committee they need pay raises, too

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

State attorneys and public defenders face off in court, but they agreed on one thing during a meeting Wednesday of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice: Their staff attorneys need pay raises.
Trouble is, committee chairman Aaron Bean isn’t convinced there’ll be enough money to pay for that, as much as he sympathizes.
“The secret is that there’s just not going to be enough money to cover everybody’s requests,” Bean said following the hearing. “That’s why we triage.”
Representatives of an array of state agencies that field attorneys begged the panel for pay raises. Other than state attorneys and public defenders, the commitee heard from regional conflict counsel, the statewide guardian ad litem office, and capital collateral representative offices.
Additional public-safety agencies also requested increases, including higher salaries. This document outlines their presentations to the committee.
Gov. Rick Scott‘s proposed $83.5 million state budget would add resources for public-safety agencies — particularly the Department of Corrections. They include $38.7 million to pay corrections and probation officers more; $4.9 million for hiring bonuses in high-vacancy institutions; and a $2.5 million base-pay bump for corrections officers in mental health units.
Scott envisions no pay raises for other state workers, however, other than a potential to earn bonuses of up to $1,500.
Stacy Scott, public defender for the 8th Circuit in Gainesville, and who argued that public defenders are underpaid compared to prosecutors, insisted it makes sense to invest in trial attorneys.
“Public defenders handle cases at much less expense than if you have to pay a private lawyer to represent indigent people who have a right to a lawyer,” Scott said.
Bill Cervone, Scott’s counterpart in the Gainesville state attorney office, held out hope for pay raises.
“We keep hearing that (Senate budget chief Jack) Latvala‘s pushing it and (Senate President Joe) Negron‘s on board with Latvala,” Cervone said.
Bean said that, notwithstanding

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Rick Scott calls for widespread pay raises for corrections officers

Monday, January 30th, 2017

Gov. Rick Scott is looking to give Florida corrections officers a pay raise, including $38 million for the state’s prison system in his proposed budget.
Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald reports that the increase, part of the budget Scott will announce Tuesday, is for “officers up to and including the rank of captain.”
Also, Scott wants to offer a $1, 000 signing bonus to new officers at certain understaffed prisons, and boost pay for officers at prison mental-health units. If approved, that combined program could cost taxpayers about $7.5 million.
Florida’s prison system, one of the most violent in the nation, has been plagued by corruption, reports of mistreatment and brutality, as well as low pay and high turnover staff rates. Over the past decade, employees at corrections facilities received a raise only once, which Klas writes was a one-time bonus for lowest paid employees.
“The governor believes in investments that allow the Florida Department of Corrections to better retain officers and have an experienced workforce,” Scott spokesperson McKinley Lewis told the Herald.
Despite warnings from Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones that low pay had resulted in massive turnover rates at the troubled agency, Klas notes Scott has so far fought the call for corrections employee pay increases, while pushing for more than $1 billion in tax cuts. For the 2017-2018 fiscal year, Scott is looking for another $618 million in tax cuts.
In an audit of the state prison system, conducted in 2015 for the Legislature, turnover rates in state prisons increase by nearly half from 2009-2015, leaving corrections staff with fewer than three years’ experience on average. Klas notes the audit found that “at five of the ten largest Florida prisons, only half of staff members had more than two years of work experience.” Inmate deaths in Florida prisons have

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After Asay decision, anti-death penalty advocates call for commutations

Friday, December 23rd, 2016

The state’s leading death penalty opposition group is calling for more than 200 Florida death row inmates to have their sentences reduced to life imprisonment.
Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (FADP) says a Florida Supreme Court decision on convicted killer Mark Asay out Thursday means that many are “entitled to be resentenced.”
The court determined that this year’s U.S. Supreme Court opinion, Hurst v. Florida, requiring Florida juries—not judges—”to (determine) the facts necessary to sentence a defendant to death” does not apply retroactively to Asay and many others.
But the opinion can be retroactive for certain death-sentenced inmates whose “cases were not final” when another related U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Ring v. Arizona, came out in 2002.
That’s when the court first said juries alone must decide on “aggravating factors” for the death penalty. As of Friday, there were 384 convicts facing capital punishment in Florida.
Resentencing efforts could cost Florida taxpayers more than $100 million, said Mark Elliott, FADP’s executive director, in a statement.
“Florida taxpayers could spend more than $500,000 for each complex death sentencing phase that may or may not result in a sentence of death,” he said.
“Commuting these death sentences to life in prison without the possibility of parole would save many millions of critically needed criminal justice dollars,” Elliott added. “These funds could be reallocated to hire and train more law enforcement officers and better protect those who protect us.
“Now is the time to be both tough on crime and smart with taxpayer dollars.”
A spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Scott said the governor’s lawyers would review the ruling but did not immediately indicate when executions will resume.
The last person put to death in Florida was Oscar Ray Bolin Jr. in January. Scott holds the record for presiding over the most executions as Florida governor – 23 –

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There oughta be a T-shirt for the David Richardson Tour

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

State Representative — and glutton for punishment — David Richardson (D-Miami Beach) brought his lonely crusade for improved prison infrastructure to the Columbia Correctional Institution on Thanksgiving Eve, giving inmates and guards the rare gift of something to be grateful for.
Florida’s correctional facilities have been decaying for decades, out of sight and out of mind except when there’s a riot, or bad publicity, or bad publicity caused by a riot.
Self-styled “one-man band” Richardson has taken it upon himself to change the public attention paradigm with a series of surprise visits to the decrepit, dangerous Big Houses located in places few Floridians can locate on a map. He’s shown up unannounced at 60 facilities and spoken with more than 225 inmates. It’s a tour without a T-shirt, but the Miami Herald has covered Richardson like Rolling Stone covers The Rolling Stones, making it impossible for the Department of Corrections (DOC) to ignore him, even if he is a Democrat.
The punch list at Columbia is a familiar one. Unflushable toilets. Unworkable showers. Cold water in hot water faucets. Heating systems that don’t work on freezing winter nights. Cell windows jammed shut on broiling summer days. “Head-splitting” noise from out-of-control exhaust fans.
“The conditions were horrific — unfit for human habitation,” Richardson told the Herald.
To her credit, DOC Secretary Julie Jones did not try to deny Richardson’s findings or lie her way out of the Herald’s questions. Basic maintenance has been neglected for so long that Jones couldn’t get half of Florida’s prisons fixed if she had Enterprise Florida’s slush funds to work with.
Forced to function like a triage nurse in an overwhelmed emergency room, Jones has no choice but to give the leaking roofs a “priority over hot water” and to rely on corrections staff to bring their own wrenches and squeeze in tasks

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Dep’t of Corrections strikes back against POLITICO over transitional programs

Friday, October 21st, 2016

The Department of Corrections on Thursday released a knockdown of a damning report by POLITICO Florida that said it misled the public about plans to eliminate transitional programs for prisoners and probationers.
Corrections’ rebuttal was nearly 1,200 words; POLITICO’s story was about 1,500 words.
Gov. Rick Scott‘s administration has frequently employed the PR tactic of discrediting such investigative reports, issuing lengthy emails titled “Setting the Record Straight” when faced with negative coverage.
The first paragraph of POLITICO’s story, which came out Wednesday, sums it up:
“Recently released depositions and state data show the Florida Department of Corrections has made misleading statements, and is using a misleading cost analysis, to justify its plans to eliminate hundreds of what are called ‘transition’ beds for prisoners to receive drug abuse treatment and counseling in community-based facilities ahead of their release.”
The department countered by saying it was “falsely accuse(d) with … misleading budget information and data.”
Among other things, the department said “POLITICO relied solely on the budget analysis supplied by the private vendor that is challenging the Department’s decision to reshape services that provide significant cost savings and allows FDC to treat more individuals.”
That vendor is Bridges of America, which has been feuding in the courts and in the press with Corrections.
The department is pulling the plug on programs the nonprofit runs in Broward and Orange counties offering counseling, drug treatment, and other services to inmates returning to society.
Corrections previously announced a new program called Spectrum, which will offer many of the same services Bridges provides, but inside the state’s prisons. It even produced an animated short to explain the program.
“Expanding substance abuse treatment at all levels of incarceration allows (the department) to treat the greatest number of inmates who are at the highest risk to reoffend,” its statement said.
“In-prison treatment has much higher completion rates (and the department) can treat four times as many individuals for

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GEO Group says it’s not interested in Fla. reentry services

Friday, October 14th, 2016

Private prison operator The GEO Group says it has “no plans” to provide prisoner reentry services in Florida.
Spokesman Pablo E. Paez responded Friday to a FloridaPolitics.com report this week on nonprofit groups saying the Department of Corrections was shutting them out of continuing to help inmates and probationers readjust to life “outside the walls.”

Bridges of America CEO Lori Costantino-Brown and other nonprofit heads held a press conference Thursday in Tallahassee.
Costantino-Brown was asked about GEO Group’s annual report, which mentions the company’s “commitment to be the world’s leading provider of offender rehabilitation and community re-entry programs,” and whether the company was influencing the state’s decision making.
Costantino-Brown said she had “no evidence of that,” but added “there has been a lot of speculation about their involvement.”
Paez says: Not us.
“The speculation that our company was in any way involved with this decision is 100 percent false,” he said in an email. “Our company does not currently provide reentry services in Florida and has no plans to do so.”
The Boca Raton-based company “greatly respects the Governor’s efforts to improve the ability of state-run institutions to help inmates re-enter society; investing in programs to break the cycle of recidivism is simply the right thing to do,” Paez said.
“We pride ourselves on our rehabilitation services to maximize our inmates’ ability to transition successfully when they leave,” he said. “We have been providing in-custody rehabilitation programs in Florida since the 1990s.”
Costantino-Brown previously had said Corrections recently put out a bid “to bring all (treatment and rehab) in-house in one massive in-prison contract.”
Paez added: “More recently, we have expanded and enhanced our leadership in evidence-based rehabilitation programs around the country through our Continuum of Care initiative that includes comprehensive in-custody offender rehabilitation programming integrated with post release support services such as housing, employment, and transportation assistance. We believe that we are most effective and at our best when those entrusted to our care

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GEO Group says it’s not interested in Fla. reentry services

Friday, October 14th, 2016

Private prison operator The GEO Group says it has “no plans” to provide prisoner reentry services in Florida.
Spokesman Pablo E. Paez responded Friday to a FloridaPolitics.com report this week on nonprofit groups saying the Department of Corrections was shutting them out of continuing to help inmates and probationers readjust to life “outside the walls.”

Bridges of America CEO Lori Costantino-Brown and other nonprofit heads held a press conference Thursday in Tallahassee.
Costantino-Brown was asked about GEO Group’s annual report, which mentions the company’s “commitment to be the world’s leading provider of offender rehabilitation and community re-entry programs,” and whether the company was influencing the state’s decision making.
Costantino-Brown said she had “no evidence of that,” but added “there has been a lot of speculation about their involvement.”
Paez says: Not us.
“The speculation that our company was in any way involved with this decision is 100 percent false,” he said in an email. “Our company does not currently provide reentry services in Florida and has no plans to do so.”
The Boca Raton-based company “greatly respects the Governor’s efforts to improve the ability of state-run institutions to help inmates re-enter society; investing in programs to break the cycle of recidivism is simply the right thing to do,” Paez said.
“We pride ourselves on our rehabilitation services to maximize our inmates’ ability to transition successfully when they leave,” he said. “We have been providing in-custody rehabilitation programs in Florida since the 1990s.”
Costantino-Brown previously had said Corrections recently put out a bid “to bring all (treatment and rehab) in-house in one massive in-prison contract.”
Paez added: “More recently, we have expanded and enhanced our leadership in evidence-based rehabilitation programs around the country through our Continuum of Care initiative that includes comprehensive in-custody offender rehabilitation programming integrated with post release support services such as housing, employment, and transportation assistance. We believe that we are most effective and at our best when those entrusted to our care

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Corrections says ‘we are not limiting services’ to inmates

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

A Florida Department of Corrections spokeswoman Thursday said speculation about private prison operator The GEO Group muscling out nonprofits that run rehab and re-entry programs in the state “is false.”
Spokeswoman Michelle Glady responded to a FloridaPolitics.com report earlier in the day.
In a press conference, nonprofit heads said the department was shutting down programs that help ex-cons with drug abuse and other problems as they re-enter society, or as one advocate called it, “getting the prison out of the person.”
Bridges of America president and CEO Lori Constantino-Brown said its Orlando facility is the latest on the hit list.
She couldn’t say what was motivating the shutdowns other than a push to consolidate the state’s programs inside prisons themselves.
In an email, Glady provided a copy of a Sept. 26 statement from Corrections Secretary Julie Jones that she said “clearly defines the Department’s actions:”
“Contrary to recent statements made by Bridges of America, the Department is not ending our longstanding partnership with Bridges but rather is inviting them to join with us to expand our community work release and substance abuse treatment opportunities in Orlando.
“This is an exciting time for FDC and I want make it very clear that we are not limiting services or the number of individuals served. In fact, we are soliciting bids for a contract in Orange County that increases the number of work release beds and substance abuse care.
“Today, more than 60 percent of the Department’s substance use disorder budget is dedicated to treating only a small number of individuals. We know we can do better. We want to provide more services to treat an even greater number of individuals with the same resources. That is why … we announced the launch of Spectrum statewide, and with it the reshaping of services being offered to inmates.
“Our data has shown we need to adapt, to offer the right services at the

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“No evidence” GEO Group behind prisoner rehab grab

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

The head of a nonprofit that runs prisoner reentry programs in the state said she had “no evidence” her group and others were being muscled out by private prison operator The GEO Group.
Lori Constantino-Brown, president and CEO of Orlando-based Bridges of America, held a press conference Thursday in Tallahassee with other care providers.
The Department of Corrections has been targeting Bridges in particular as it winds up outside transitional programs for the state’s inmates and probationers. Bridges’ Orlando facility is the latest on the hit list.
Constantino-Brown couldn’t say what was motivating the shutdowns other than a push to consolidate the state’s reentry programs inside prisons themselves, or “behind the walls,” in the advocates’ lingo.
Then Miami Herald reporter Mary Ellen Klas mentioned she had “spent some time reading the GEO Group’s annual report.” That company, based in Boca Raton, manages the federal government’s 700-bed Broward Transitional Center, for example.
“And one of the things in there is that it indicates it wants to get more into reentry and transition programs,” Klas said. “Do you have any reason to believe that this is part of what is motivating the (Rick Scott) administration?”
“I have no evidence of that,” Costantino-Brown said. “Certainly, there has been a lot of speculation about their involvement.”
Indeed, the company’s 2015 Annual Report says it has “furthered our commitment to be the world’s leading provider oI offender rehabilitation and community reentry programs, … investing more than $5 million annually to expand our ‘GEO Continuum of Care’ platform.”
In the current state budget, records show $330,000 was set aside for “operation of the GEO Continuum of Care rehabilitation and reentry program at Blackwater River Correctional Facility,” the company’s men’s prison in Milton.
“We have begun the implementation of ‘GEO Continuum of Care’ programs at more than a dozen correctional facilities around the country in partnership with our state and federal customers,” the annual

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Dept of Corrections, Bridges of America battling again over inmate programs

Monday, September 26th, 2016

The state’s Department of Corrections and Bridges of America, an Orlando-based nonprofit, are once more warring over transitional programs for the state’s inmates.
On Monday morning, Bridges representatives and supporters say they will rally at the organization’s Orlando Transition Center “to respond to (DOC’s) plans to shut the center down,” the group said.
Lori Constantino-Brown, president and CEO of Bridges, explained in an open letter that the prisons agency wants “to move 688 community-based substance abuse beds from community facilities back behind prison walls.”
The Orlando Transition Center “houses and treats 136 transitioning and community release inmates.”
“Moving these beds back into prisons not only results in increased costs to Florida taxpayers, but also impacts the transitional process of those non-violent inmates participating,” she wrote.
This isn’t the first time that Brown and Corrections Secretary Julie Jones had a high-profile scuffle.
A similar battle broke out earlier this year over Broward Bridge, a residential program offering transitional counseling, drug treatment and other services to inmates on work release.
The state wanted to pull the plug; Bridges waged a PR battle to keep the facility open.
The organization said 89 percent of men who start the Broward program successfully complete it, and only 10 percent of men and 5 percent of women who graduate from such “community transition centers” get in trouble with the law again.
Several state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle opposed that proposed shutdown, including state Sen. Darren Soto, an Orlando Democrat, and House Republican Leader Dana Young of Tampa.
State Sen. Greg Evers – a Baker Republican whose Criminal Justice Committee oversees state prisons – went as far as to say DOC officials had “lied” to him after promising they wouldn’t interfere with such programs.
That tussle ended when DOC agreed to place inmates then using Broward Bridge in other treatment centers

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