A recent audit on the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) has revealed an understaffing issue.
The Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA) initially conducted the audit to evaluate the use of force policies in Florida.
The audit occurred at Columbia, Dade, Martin, Santa Rosa, Suwannee and Union Correctional Institutions. Evaluated areas include: the facility use of force procedures, facility culture and security operations.
According to a press release by the FDOC, the use of force policy “is consistent overall with widely accepted practices of audit correctional agencies nationwide.”
Julie L. Jones, the FDOC secretary, says the findings show the efforts made so far at the DOC.
“The information provided in this review reflects the department’s ongoing efforts to increase accountability and safety within our institutions and our goal of becoming a national leader in correctional policy, “ Jones said in a written statement.
However, after evaluating facility staffing, the ASCA felt the number of staff was less than appropriate.
In response to the audit findings the ASCA has recommended a detailed staffing analysis of all institutional positions.
According to the FDOC Office of Communications, this is a recommendation they are “taking into consideration.”
“The department has policies and procedures in place to ensure institutions are staffed to fill positions that are critical for the safe and secure operation of the institution. Staffing turnover is a challenge the department has had to deal with before. We are always actively recruiting and looking for the best candidates to fill active vacancies," Press Secretary Alberto Moscoso wrote in a statement.
The audit results have caught the attention of the Florida division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a labor union group.
In a recent newsletter, the Florida Teamsters wrote that the FDOC has hired 2,200 employees in the last 6 months yet lost 1,400 more. They wrote that the FDOC is losing an average of 100 employees every month.
For Matthew Gregg, a fourth-year physical education student at Florida A&M University, the lack of staffing is an issue that hits close to home. Gregg’s father is currently serving time in Leon County Jail.
“This is definitely an issue. My dad has noted that when fights break out, it takes a long time before it is broken up,” said Gregg. “It bothers me because I worry about my dad’s safety.”
According to the Florida Teamsters’ newsletter, the union group has spent the last two years talking with the FDOC and the state legislature about staff turnover.
“The disparity in pay has caused a perpetual churn of officers training and then leaving the agency for higher pay elsewhere.”
Correctional officers’ salaries are lower than the salaries of local law enforcement officers who make an average of about $47,000 a year. A certified Florida correctional officer makes between $30,000 and $46,000 a year depending on their rank.
Due to the low staffing levels, the FDOC now must focus on inmate and employee safety. According to the FDOC, administrators at every level are working to ensure facilities are “maintaining proper staffing to meet critical needs.”