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Governor reforms prisons with executive order

Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order Friday to crack down on the violent culture within Florida’s prison system.

The order includes provisions addressing safety and transparency and that hold guards, wardens and Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones accountable.

Newspaper investigations have detailed a series of unexplained inmate deaths, allegations of retaliation against whistleblowers, and reports of guards targeting black inmates.

Scott directed Jones to implement a series of policies including:

  • Requiring each employee who applies physical force upon an inmate to sign an independent report under oath detailing the incident within one working day;
  • Develop an inventory policy to track the use of chemical agents;
  • Provide additional training for sexual abuse investigations in confinement;
  • Contract with security experts for safety and security consultant services, and;
  • Add safety as a priority to the security review.

Scott also ordered Jones to increase the number of DOC operations regions from three to four and detailed regional directors responsibilities.

The executive order outlines those duties as:

  • Holding subordinates responsible for appropriate disciplinary decisions;
  • Ensuring a retaliation-free environment for each correctional facility;
  • Make at least two unannounced visits quarterly to each correctional facility under the director’s command, and;
  • Review each quarter the use of force reports, grievances inmates filed and discipline reports of employees.

“The steps outlined in today’s executive order present a clear path forward for the Department of Corrections,” Scott said. “The Department’s number one focus is the safety of Florida’s correctional officers, communities and the inmates in state custody and supervision.”

Sen. Gregg Evers was working on a comprehensive corrections reform package that died when the 2015 Regular Session ended early over a budget dispute between the House and Senate.

The corrections department came under scrutiny after a series of Miami Herald reports that examined inmate’s deaths in Florida prisons. The investigation found several cases where inmates died after being abused or neglected by corrections officers.

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