Gov. DeSantis’ budget ensures prison guards make more than Wawa clerks
Gov. DeSantis with WAWA staff, 2022. Image via Ron DeSantis' Twitter account.

DeSantis WAWA
'When I became Governor, they couldn't hire them.'

Florida’s beleaguered correctional guards will get some help in Gov. Ron DeSantis’ new budget.

In fact, the men and women tasked with overseeing Florida’s worst criminals will now be better compensated than convenience store clerks, something the Governor said Wednesday was not the case when he took office in 2019.

“We’re now being able to increase the starting pay for correctional officers to $23 an hour. When I became Governor, they couldn’t hire them, because they could work at Wawa or some of these other places. So now we’ve made it a lot more competitive, and that will help with recruitment and retention.”

The Governor’s budget includes more than $107 million to boost salaries of prison guards, with an increase of the minimum pay for Correctional Officers to $47,840, as part of a larger package of enhancements for the Department of Corrections (DOC).

This is the latest attempt to deal with longstanding staff shortages that have required members of the Florida National Guard to take shifts in prisons given thousands of unfilled positions.

Last month, Deputy DOC Secretary Richard Comerford told the Senate Criminal Justice Committee that 5,000 vacancies still exist statewide, with 23,375 positions overall. The vacancy rate of just over 25% is an improvement over November 2021’s 38.5%. But gaps still exist despite recent reforms in what can often be a “dangerous and undesirable place to work.”

“We often have one officer supervising hundreds of inmates,” Comerford told the Senate Criminal Justice panel.

Recruitment and retention are recurring challenges, despite the recent “positive shift” in trends, which include beginning the transition to 8.5-hour shifts and increases in pay under DeSantis’ watch.

“We were losing more correctional officers than we were gaining. Since that raise, the trend has reversed. We have turned the corner, but we’re not out of the woods yet,” Comerford told the Senate committee.

Secretary Ricky Dixon offered much the same insights last month to the House Justice Appropriations panel about “significant vacancies.”

“Recruitment of qualified applicants and the retention of employees has been very challenging in recent years,” Dixon said. Though trends have been positive since late 2021’s “freefall,” local police departments have been competitive for the same entry-level pool more recently.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


7 comments

  • David Pakman

    February 1, 2023 at 5:07 pm

    It’s not only the pay per officer, but there aren’t enough officers period, and the facilities are outdated. This is why Florida prisons are especially dangerous with an inmate committing homicide or suicide every ten days. They aren’t properly supervising the prisoners and there’s corruption. If you go to the FLA DOC website and read some of the homicide and suicide reports, it’s almost always “We found so and so dead.” Yeah you found him dead because you lost him. You weren’t supervising the inmates because you have one guard per hundred people and open bay dorms. Looks like a GD slave ship in there. But of course, they blame the nature of the people in the institution for it all, and the population doesn’t care about human rights..so it is what it is. The state is even less moral than the population. DeSantis making positive changes in retention of officers but not the prison system itself. It’s still an inhumane hell hole with lots of corruption and violence that can be prevented. Not all violence can be prevented in prisons but the way they’re run now.. there’s a lot more than need be.

    • Dr. Covid Hoax

      February 2, 2023 at 10:43 am

      Humorous that everyone (like Soros and his SPLC ilk) are so concerned about inmates but not about their victims or public safety or staff safety at these prisons. If prisons were luxurious places than everyone would want to live there. News-flash.. It is prison. Inmates have rights but so do victims and taxpayers. More officers is good but people who criticize Florida’s system just don’t get it. Or they do get it (like Soros and SPLC) but they just don’t care.

    • kim w

      February 6, 2023 at 12:22 pm

      Agreed, Florida needs a release system to alleviate the overcrowding, There are people who can be safely released, just as there are people who should never get out. Its more like 1 guard per 160 inmates because 80 people per open dorm and 1 officers for 2 dorms. When will the State listen?

  • Kim W

    February 2, 2023 at 8:07 pm

    So we put more dollars towards corrections officers than starting teachers…..some people could safely be let out, let’s change this system.

    • Jesse S

      February 5, 2023 at 6:59 pm

      Cool reply Kim I look forward to seeing you apply to be a C.O so teachers who dont have to deal with the stress of being assaulted or families targeted for doing their jobs can also get a raise. I am so glad you are volunteering to help fill to FDOC positions.

      • kim w

        February 6, 2023 at 12:23 pm

        Too many in the prison system, its a big money maker to the state. Where did I say I wanted to be employed by DOC? They need to let people out that are safe to be released not pour more tax dollars in an inept system.

  • Edward Freeman

    February 6, 2023 at 10:31 am

    The problem with Florida’s prisons is that Florida incarcerates far too many people in the first place. Florida has a huge number of inmates who have neither hurt anyone nor stolen anything. The first step should be a massive reduction in the number of prisoners. Then the much smaller number of corrections officers can be much better paid and trained. However, we also must change what we expect of these officers. If we continue to expect officers to treat the inmates as less than human, we will always have trouble filling those jobs, as this goes agianst the moral fiber of most decent people.

Comments are closed.


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