Corrections chief Mark Inch wants prison guards working 8-hour shifts again

prison reform
Cites dramatic problem increases since switch to 12-hour shifts in 2013

Department of Corrections Secretary Mark Inch is asking for an additional $89 million to begin switching back to eight-hour shifts and to address other staffing problems.

The reason: 12-hour shifts for prison guards implemented under the Rick Scott administration led to dramatic rises in guard turnover, stress for guards, violence by prisoners, and costs for the department, he said.

“I don’t want to be pessimistic or alarmist, but (this is) to relay real challenges,” Inch added.

Inch, who has been on the job about eight months, made his comments this week as he described the prison system’s situation to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice.

He described a corrections department that is seeing dramatic increases in staffing problems, with 3,000 vacancies and a high turnover rate. He said that’s directly leading to more violence and overtime costs.

One of the critical fixes Inch wants to pursue is a pilot project to convert the prison guards’ shifts back to eight hours from the current 12-hour shifts. But that’s not the only or even most expensive proposal.

He also sounded an alarm for dramatic budget increases to more directly address staff attrition and vacancy rates, including a proposal to increase salaries by $1,500 a year for guards with two years of service and by $2,500 for those with five years of service; address inmate violence, addiction, idleness and recidivism; curb rising health care costs; and address the aging infrastructure of Florida’s prisons system.

Inch asked for $60 million to address general staffing problems and $29 million to switch back a third of Florida’s prisons to eight-hour guard shifts, which would require the immediate hiring of 292 new officers, in addition to the department’s needs to fill 3,000 chronic vacancies.

Sen. Jeff Brandes, the St. Petersburg Republican who chairs the subcommittee, suggested even those efforts might not be enough based on a 2015 study. He argued for bold changes in Florida’s prison system.

“The Legislature must have the courage to do the right thing in this situation and fund this entity at the correct levels,” he said. “We are frankly overstuffed with inmates and underfunded and under-guarded. This has become a pervasive issue that frankly is department-wide.

“While the budget requests I’m sure are your best efforts, the simple truth is without significant resources coming into this department over and above what you requested, I do not know that the trends will not stay the same or continue to get worse.

“… So I look forward to working with you over the next few months as we cast a vision of what the Department of Corrections should look like,” Brandes said.

Inch outlined highly disturbing trends in  in staff turnover and vacancies, violence, and other matters, and he traced them back to the 2012-13 fiscal year. That, he said, is when the Scott administration transitioned guards from eight-hour shifts to 12-hour shifts, which also resulted in significant layoffs, reducing the full-time staff.

“Staffing at the department has reached critically low levels and much of the staff they do have is extremely inexperienced. The negative impacts of these staffing problems cannot be understated. They impact every facet of the department,” Inch said.

Since 2013, he said:

Turnover rate of staff increased 150 percent.

Officers with less than two years experience increased 67 percent.

Inmate-on-inmate assaults increased by 67 percent.

Inmate assaults on staff increased 46 percent.

— Contraband increased 484 percent.

Inmate gang population increased 140 percent.

Use of force (by guards) incidents increased by 54 percent.

Correctional officer overtime increased 549 percent to backfill vacant positions.

That means the department has been averaging $48 million a year on overtime wages, compared with less than $10 million a year before the switch, he said.

“Certainly the status quo is untenable,” Inch said.

At one point, several lawmakers asked why Inch would even consider making the transition back to eight-hour shifts a pilot program instead of just going all-out.

Practically speaking, Inch replied, the transition would have to be phased in for a variety of management and logistical reasons. And since it had to be done in phases, he wanted to offer the effort as a pilot program to prove its importance.

“I think you’ve been persuasive enough that we don’t need to use the word ‘pilot,’ ” Brandes replied.

One thing Inch did not ask for was money to address guard-on-inmate violence.

That brought strong statements from Democratic state Sens. Randolph Bracy of Ocoee and Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg. Inch discussed detailed policies and programs in place to deal with allegations of guard-on-inmate violence. Bracy responded that he wanted to see something more proactive.

He said violence against inmates “is something that’s prevalent in DOC and has been for a long time. And I think that also provides stress among inmates. I’ve visited a number of prisons and it’s a common theme you hear among inmates.

“I believe that it’s a culture,” Bracy added.

Inch acknowledged it is “an issue of culture.” And he expressed hope that addressing the problems he brought up would help.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected]


19 comments

  • Skip Duncan

    September 19, 2019 at 9:36 am

    Very good article, but not surprising, how many of these types of narrow-sighted decisions will be unearthed, before the voting public understands Sen. Scott, is about money, Water Management, Fl. Keys Hurricane clean-up, Colombia HCA largest Medicare Fraud ever, and when testifying he took the “fifth” so many times, he made us all dizzy, it was a mob boss going before Congress !! Lack of holding public officials accountable, Selling of state aircraft, only to shield records of operating cost, of his private jet, on, and on, and on. I’m a registered voting Republican and will never vote for that guy !!! Thank you another great read.

  • Dstpierre

    September 19, 2019 at 2:55 pm

    The increased guard on inmate abuse is due to correctional officers using testosterone steroids aka testosterone replacement therapy. #FACT

    • David

      September 19, 2019 at 5:54 pm

      That’s just stupid. Incredible that you would even voice in a public setting. However, I do appreciate you thoughts and comments

    • Mike

      September 21, 2019 at 3:22 am

      What a dumb comment 😆. Inmates are angles right? That’s why they ended up in prison. Why don’t you take some in to your home?

    • Richard

      September 22, 2019 at 6:38 am

      First, the term guards is wrong. No one is trying to steal a prison. Correctional Officer is the correct title. Second, I would be willing to bet you are a convict yourself. Steroids? Really? Idiot

  • Dave

    September 19, 2019 at 6:14 pm

    Now! On to something more helpful and constructive. Even if you go to 8 hour shifts, the same problems would exist. I would venture to guess that mr. inch dint grow up in the correction system. But the real problem is the entire system suffers from under pay, under appreciation. As the comment above shows. Instead of going to 8 hours, why not create a break program that includes a voluntary rewards based wellness program. That would help with the stresses of what goes on inside working in prisons and jails. Anything other than that is putting lipstick on a pig. (Longer breaks, more appreciates) I have a lot of suggestions, too many to include in a limited space

  • Bill

    September 19, 2019 at 6:44 pm

    The two main causes of the departments problems are Are
    12 hour shifts and low pay, we literally had a lost decade.
    Who wants to keep a job that goes a decade between raises?
    Now who wants to keep a job dodging thrown bloody feces with no raises who gets held over all the time for 16 hours and is forced to come in on their days off???

    I came in in 2007. From then till the change to 12’s the staffing was good.

    BUT Due to not getting raises and inflation eating away my money’s worth every year after 2007 i made less money than when i was hired due to inflation until 2017.That year i broke EVEN with inflation after a 1,400 raise AND a 10% promotion raise so in 2017 after 10 years and going up in rank i finally made the same pay as i did as a nobody know nothing new hire in 2007.Now i make less again thanks to inflation and no raises.

    The reason the prisons are falling apart….. No raises for maintenance…..ever

    literally you have to quit every 5 years or so and come back to get a raise .
    Why is that?, because after about 5 years the state will raise the minimum staffing pay but NOT give anyone else a raise

    That’s right I knew people certified people, master electricians ect ect working for 28k or even less been there 20 years working right next to new know nothing new hires making 35k and up.

    I went into maintenance in 2017.
    I have been through 4 or 5 bosses
    Out of everyone in maintenance including the boss i have the most seniority in maintenance.
    I like my Job.Am good at my Job and would like to stay until retirement.
    I will be quitting in 2 years or so so i can get a raise most likely from other places wanting me to work for them.

  • kari

    September 19, 2019 at 7:48 pm

    Going to 8hr shifts will not help the situation. Now we will have to work more hours and have even less time with family because your taking away our weekends. Once they go back to 8’s the favorites will get the shift and days off they want and then the rest will be trickled down to everyone else. Your going to have more Officers leaving and going to county, feds etc. We will also be losing money and we already dont make enough as it is!! Way to go DOC!!

  • Katerri

    September 19, 2019 at 8:40 pm

    I don’t agree with this at all , I currently work for doc and at an institution that is on 8-hr shifts and it is horrible… we have lost numerous staff members due to long 16-hr shifts because of the vacancy rate others can’t see their families the days are horrible and on top of all of that we are highly underpaid

  • Nkese Jackson

    September 19, 2019 at 10:07 pm

    I worked in a 12 hours shift unit and took a break to take care of family issues and going back to 8 hours unit now because I believe in thos write up and understand the psychological stress of 12 hours shift.it drains one out and leaves one with no motivation for next day. The aura in the entire prison wall is depressing for the offenders and officers and most times I cling to faith in God and divine touch from the cross as a born again CHRISTIAN to forge on and be a light to me able to effect positive changes in offenders BEHAVIOR.
    Overtime pays more for those who can do it but it can be avoided if the general pay is increased so officers work and go on their full time off…instead of go for overtime except when very necessary and this I believe will make the officers more alert,physically and mentally and this will enhance overall work and hours input.

  • oaks

    September 19, 2019 at 10:07 pm

    this should be done 12 hour shifts and mandatory overtime is too much. 12 hours is to long of a day in prison and after 8 your mind is not thinking., the pay is the lowest around and no one wants to work at a dangerous job for 15, to 17 an hour you can get that at a fast food resterant. thats another reason the state prisons cannot keep help.

  • Debra Murdock

    September 20, 2019 at 6:34 am

    I have 13 yrs with the State and if we go to 8 hr shifts we will have no more 3 day weekends to spend with your families and there will still be staff shortages so you will be pulling 16 hr shifts.They can’t even get one person to show up for job fairs to apply for jobs how are they going to fill vacancies.They need to give more money..That’s the problem..I have worked both 8 and 12 and I feel I have more time with my family on 12 hr shifts..Everyone stay safe..

  • Earline

    September 20, 2019 at 6:56 am

    I retired from another state’s DOC and the problem is nation wide. There is lack of professionalism along with everything else that has been previously presented. Times have change and so has the pool of potential employees. Money will always be noted as a problem, but surveys always reveal job satisfaction is at the top. Most states lack in both areas. Even today’s inmate has changed and we must train our employees to meet the task. There are no easy answers in the field of Corrections, but the focus and mindset bleeds from the top down. Professionalism must always be present! Yes, even when the inmate is spitting, throwing urine/feces, and blood at you. The rules have always been the same, but the game changes and we have to stay abreast of each change. I always kept in mind that, we operated a prison only because the inmates let us?

  • Scarlett Aslan

    September 20, 2019 at 2:25 pm

    I work at a facility that is 12 hour shifts and I would quit if it went to 8 hour shifts. I wouldn’t have 3 day weekends every other week, and I would still be pulling 16 hr shifts due to shortages. Right now we have 2 shifts a day we have to staff. If we went to 8 hour shifts we would have 3 shifts a day to staff. If we dont have enough to staff 2 shifts what makes you think we have enough to staff 3? And besides all that, we have voiced our desires and PBA has put a stop to going to 8 hr shifts. Make white shirts and sergeants stop treating new people like pariahs. Start raises for cost of living. When people apply at a prison that is staffed, send them to their second choice. Stop the “GHOSTING” of admin personnel who are sitting in their offices, onto the compound rosters. Close dorms. Send the inmates to staffed institutions. Stop giving wardens bonuses for having a certain amount of inmates. Show up on compounds unannounced and get the REAL picture.

  • Wanda

    September 20, 2019 at 4:57 pm

    Doesn’t matter if they work 12 or 8 you’ll still have the officers that beat up inmates just because they can. They need to raise the pay and also the standards in which these officers have to go by. If there were descent officers everything would run better. If they are going to get rid of the drugs in there then they need to get rid of the officers that are bringing them in. DOC will not do anything about the officers that do the same things the inmates are in there for. If they do anything at all, it’s to move them to a different department. The officers get to hide behind the badge. The people over DOC will never believe the inmates even when someone dies. The inmates are being punished for something they may or may not have done but they don’t deserve what the officers put them through. I know if goes both ways but the inmates can’t say anything to the officers and defiantly can’t take up for there self when being beaten. Someone needs to worry about this for a change.

  • John

    September 21, 2019 at 2:48 pm

    Going to 8 hour shifts only benefits the OIC because he has his shift covered the whole time. The people who have been hired since the 12 hour shifts have been in affect are gonna leave after you tell them the will no longer be getting every other weekend off. The department doesnt have enough employees to cover the 12 hour shifts because there was no relief factor figured in when they were started the only allotted for the bare minimum to actually make the shift run. I used to work for local sheriff’s offices and they wondered why the couldnt keep employees because everyone was leaving to go to the state because of the pay and benefits now the state has the same problem because everybody is now leaving the state to go to the county jails because of the pay. Ive worked at the prison since 2006 and the only pay increase ive received is a one time 1400.00 pay increase and when i got promoted. I dont blame people for leaving and going to better paying jobs, who wants to work for a place that gives no pay raises whose higher ups dont care about and force you to work 16 hour days and 4 mandatory days a pay period. Would you?

  • Yea right.

    September 21, 2019 at 4:42 pm

    I think honestly no matter how many hours you work.. you are working 16 hrs regardless. The only downside is one shift you lose your every other weekend. I personally wouldn’t mind 8hr shifts if we had actual staffing to limit the overtime! the problem is going to always be the pay and the little appreciation we get.. we get little respect for what we do from the public and smaller appreciation from our oic and higher.. we make between 13$-17$ an hour when I can make 15$ at whataburger and not have to worry about my safety every second I’m on the compound.
    The inmates are not even half the problem. They can be dangerous and manipulative sire but you have your dirty officers making the situation dangerous and then your officers who want to start fights. On top of everything else, when the inmates DO act out and DO create a scene, the officers that ARE doing their job correctly have no back up from their OIC. It should never be acceptable or considered a “walking DR” for an inmate to pull his dick out and “gun” your females. Or throw shit at your males… consequences should be available for inmates like this! As well as for officers that are bringing shit it !! Stop letting things like this go and do something about it!

    A pay raise would be amazing. We work long hours away from our families. Walking the floors of these compounds and dormitories with convicts behind bars with their homemade weapons while we only have a small spray can.. and it’s acceptable to make under 17$ an hour ?

  • James Brian

    September 26, 2019 at 1:04 pm

    Scarlett Aslon has one of the only factual comments on here. Ive worked 12 hour shifts at Florida State Prison for the last 5 years. Up until 2017 there was hardly any over time the job was great. All people care about anymore is pay and their days off and how can the state compete with county offices when depending on what local agency you apply at is starting correction officers off at $40,000 a year and up to $1,000 per every year experience up to 5 years you have. Right now you have a day shift and a night shift that cant be fully staffed. At 10 o’clock every night most housing units go down to 2 officers some even 1 officer alone all night at a close management institution, also having to come in on 4 of your off days every month not including having to fulfill the extended work day roster and having to work over for the other shift in between. If we go back to 8 our shifts that 3 whole shifts a day that you have to fill now with only 2 days off a week with most of your new staff not having weekends off anymore and having a tuesday wednesday or what have you off. All your new staff between the ages of 18 and 20 are not going to accept not having at least every other weekend off. Your going to have more staff quit for having to work what will turn into 16 hour shifts everyday because now they can hold you over a whole other shift instead of only holding you over 4 hours with the 12 hour shifts. That means instead of having more time to spend with your family like they are trying to say, your going to be sleeping your off days if they dont make you come in one of them before you go back to work. They are trying to push this as it is what’s best for everyone and the department when honestly its only best for the department as usual. Your not going to be able to keep staff when they have to work over time to make ends meet and county offers them roughly $7,000 increase in base pay just to show up.

  • Nate D.

    September 29, 2019 at 7:37 pm

    Just left the state in june. Main reason is money. I was there 10 years, and only real raise was my promotion. I left at almost 18 an hr. Now at federal making 29 an hr. It was a no brainer, now for granted my time started over but hey i will do it again in a heartbeat. I was there for 8’s and 12’s i prefer 12’s even with mental health. Also security should run mental health not wanna be Dr’s that cant hack a real Dr job. They will get someone hurt and the state needs to take back all money making positions and stop contracting them out.

Comments are closed.


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