House, Senate temper prison consolidation talk

Florida Prison 1
Pay increase for correctional officers are now part of negotiations.

The House and Senate are reaching common ground on a proposal to consolidate state prisons in Florida.

Originally, the Senate called for the closure of one 1,500-bed prison in Florida by the end of the year.

Their proposal also called for a study to determine various implications including prison age, facility maintenance needs, staffing, and the impact of a closure on a local community’s economy.

But under the latest Senate offer, they removed the year-end deadline and relaxed the consolidation-seeking language. They’ve also agreed to withdraw a roughly $140 million budget reduction associated with the closure.

“Ours is more if we close and theirs is more when we close,” explained Rep. Scott Plakon, chairman of the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee.

Additionally, the Senate’s latest offer adds language to give a 3% pay increase for security service employees such as correctional officers.

“We want to make sure that money that we can save through that closure is spent on DOC corrections officers,” said Sen. Keith Perry, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Conference Committee on Criminal and Civil Justices.

“They’re the ones who are on the frontlines, and so anything we can do to help them.”

Consolidation proponents note the state’s shrinking inmate population.

According to data released at the latest Criminal Justice Estimating Conference (CJEC), the prison population come June is expected to decrease by 7.9%.

Critics, meanwhile, note that courts remain backlogged under the pandemic.

According to CJEC data, the felony backlog totals 27,364 cases as of March.

“At this time, they do not expect to return to full operating capacity until FY 2021-22, with their backlog expected to take until the end of FY 2023-24 to resolve itself,” the executive summary adds.

Consolidation aside, both Chambers are seeking long-term remedies for  the state’s understaffed correctional facilities.

On Saturday, the Senate joined the House on a budget allocation to reduce shift lengths from 12-hour shifts to 8.5-hours.

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the Florida State Capitol. After a go with the U.S. Army, the Orlando-native attended the University of Central Florida and earned a degree in American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. He'd love to hear from you. You can reach Jason by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.


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