Hundreds of air-conditioned prison beds left empty as inmates suffered ‘hot summer’

State Prison
'It was a hot summer and we won't deny that.'

More than 700 air-conditioned prison beds remained empty at a North Florida corrections facility as inmates across the state endured brutal heat waves in cells without air conditioning.

Secretary Ricky Dixon, who oversees state prisons, told lawmakers that the state is suffering a staffing “crisis” that’s resulted in the “compression” of inmates from northern to more southern prisons, where there are more corrections officers. That pattern has resulted in years of nonuse of at least 740 air-conditioned beds at a Franklin County facility in North Florida.

Dixon highlighted the prison briefly as he spoke to a panel of lawmakers who are contemplating solutions to address the perennial heat problems endured by Florida inmates who don’t have climate-controlled cells. Florida Politics confirmed with the Department of Corrections that five dorms in the prison have been shuttered for at least two years and were not used during last summer, which featured heat that fetched national coverage.

“It was a hot summer and we won’t deny that,” Dixon later told lawmakers, adding that the majority of prisons do not have air conditioning.

The Franklin prison, located about an hour southwest of Tallahassee, was among 15 facilities lawmakers recently authorized to offer $5,000 hiring and retention bonuses. That funding was part of a number of changes made last Session to address the staffing crisis at Florida prisons, including raising starting pay for officers to $22 per hour and changing the retention pay scheme.

There are four different regions classifying the prison system. The northern two have vacancy rates — caused by labor supply issues — of more than 20%. A more-central region has about a 6% vacancy rate and the southernmost region has a 14% vacancy rate.

Most of the bonuses went to corrections facilities in the northern part of the state suffering staffing crises.

“(The shortage) is causing us to move inmates from the north into the south and compress them in unacceptable levels in the southern prisons,” Dixon said.

And as he acknowledged earlier, it’s exacerbating the air conditioning problems facing inmates. As Dixon noted, heat can also create unsafe conditions for prison staff, too.

“I will be candid, I desire (air conditioning) most of all for our staff,” Dixon said. “But when I say I’m concerned for staff that’s not to take away from the (prison) population.”

Some prison temperatures may have exceeded 115 degrees during the summer.

The heat problem is so bad that Fleming Island Republican Sen. Jennifer Bradley feared that the lack of “heat mitigation” might get Florida into legal trouble.

If lawmakers don’t address it, “Florida will find itself on the receiving end of a lawsuit and that will be a lot more expensive,” said Bradley, who chairs the budget committee for criminal justice issues.

More than 85,000 inmates are currently incarcerated in Florida prisons.

Without funding to update and overhaul the prisons, the Department of Corrections has engaged in what it calls “heat mitigation,” Dixon said.

Such efforts include installation of fans and misting devices and finding other ways to ventilate prisons.

“I’m not saying these are acceptable long-term solutions,” Dixon said.

Democratic Sen. Jason Pizzo suggested more state figureheads need to walk through and observe conditions at Florida prisons because the state is “doing a horrible job in terms of resources.”

“We’re spending over $3 billion a year out of the state budget and nobody (in the Cabinet) has visited a prison in the last six years,” Pizzo said.

While the Cabinet is solidly Republican today, Pizzo suggested the lack of prison involvement isn’t partisan.

“I don’t recall the Democratic Agriculture Commissioner visiting either,” Pizzo said of Nikki Fried, who served in the Cabinet until 2023 and now chairs the Florida Democratic Party.

Danny McAuliffe

Danny is a contributor at floridapolitics.com. He is a graduate of Fordham Law School and Florida State University, where he served as the editor of the FSView & Florida Flambeau. Reach him at [email protected].


8 comments

  • Unwoke and Going Broke In Florida

    October 11, 2023 at 2:45 pm

    Christians are cruel and godless. They are 71% of the US population but in prison they are 96%.

    They are born criminal, poor at it, and prone to being caught.

    Then they cruelly treat their own people as all the screws and Christians.

    Deplorable and so Christian.

    • Linwood Wright

      October 11, 2023 at 3:23 pm

      Hell is undoubtedly full of Christians.

    • Rick Whitaker

      October 11, 2023 at 6:06 pm

      you are so right. christians are money worshipers and won’t spend money where needed until law suits start coming in . the history of christians is full of examples of neglect and unethical treatment. racism is one part of christian motives and greed is another big part. when democrats run the correction systems they focus on training and behavior incentives that make the inmate a better person when they walk you out than when they came in. i taught ged classes at a prison for 2 years and saw how the hope improved the inmates lives when they got their ged certificates. christians don’t follow the teachings of jesus at all. they are hard set on punishment and not concerned with the harsh conditions. they have the money to air condition every cell but make excuses for not doing it. they pander to the worst instincts of the vengeful and greedy elements of their constituents and just don’t give a damn about nobody but themselves. the way christians justified killing native americans and then stole their land saying it was just because the natives were heathens, is a similar situation . they don’t care about criminals because they broke the law and complain when they get out more hardened and bitter. air conditioning is not coddling. when a wealthy person puts their pet in a kennel to go on vacation, they make sure it is air conditioned. christians are very hypocritical by nature. they believe in 2000 year old superstitions called the bible, but don’t actually follow it because that would require sacrifice and good works. they are gun mongers and when someone gets killed by a gun they say lets pray and then go buy more guns. the kkk were christians. the terrorists that stormed the capital and killed policemen were christians. to be a christian is to have a closed mind.

  • Unwoke and Going Broke In Florida

    October 11, 2023 at 2:46 pm

    And Danny you went to grad school on West 60th and Columbus so you know exactly what I mean.

    That shawarma cart could never thrive on Monroe St.

  • Susie Truman

    October 11, 2023 at 6:29 pm

    I agree with Jason pizzo there needs to be more help and resources for inmates and prisons. There is lack in communication with families when imates are hurt or wrongfully done in any manner . The air conditioning is a sad excuse for the prison system . With the billions of dollars that are supposed to be for prisons and never enough money that doesn’t make sense to me. Considering inmate’s families send them everything financially everything they need. why isn’t there fund to help them during incarceration. In the state of Florida it is law that their be air conditioning for rents so there is and should be the same law for prisoners as well. There could be lots of lawsuits against this air conditioning and lawsuits on wrong doing to prisoners . It’s a shame they are being treated inhumanly. They have some rights and I feel the prison system change the way they do things. I know several prisoners that have been wrongfully done by staff (gaurds) and by other prisoners and families don’t know anything until way later of the situation that is total bull crap. We should be notified as soon as it has been addressed to wardens. The prison system keeps stuff quite from families and that should be against the law.

  • Susie Truman

    October 11, 2023 at 6:32 pm

    I agree with Jason pizzo there needs to be more help and resources for inmates and prisons. There is lack in communication with families when imates are hurt or wrongfully done in any manner . The air conditioning is a sad excuse for the prison system . With the billions of dollars that are supposed to be for prisons and never enough money that doesn’t make sense to me. Considering inmate’s families send them everything financially everything they need. why isn’t there fund to help them during incarceration. In the state of Florida it is law that their be air conditioning for renerts so there is and should be the same law for prisoners as well. There could be lots of lawsuits against this air conditioning and lawsuits on wrong doing to prisoners . It’s a shame they are being treated inhumanly. They have some rights and I feel the prison system should change the way they do things. I know several prisoners that have been wrongfully done by staff (gaurds) and by other prisoners and families don’t know anything until way later of the situation that is total bull crap. We should be notified as soon as it has been addressed to wardens. The prison system keeps stuff quite from families and that should be against the law.

  • MJ Stinnett

    October 12, 2023 at 10:20 am

    Get funding from all the millions, possible billions, from the Todd and Julie Chrisley family that they stole to live lavish lives and are still spending. Problem solved!

    • Ed H

      October 14, 2023 at 12:56 pm

      Agreed, yhey are not in a prison , its a country club. Drain their accounts and even though I understand it’s a prison it’s not a hotel. It’s not meant to be fun.

Comments are closed.


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