September 9, 2022
FDC Partners with Florida National Guard to Supplement Staffing at Select Correctional Institutions
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) Secretary Rick Dixon requested Governor Ron DeSantis activate the Florida National Guard to temporarily provide relief and supplement staff vacancies at the following locations: Northwest Florida Reception Center, Reception and Medical Center, and Calhoun, Franklin, Hamilton, Jackson, Mayo, Santa Rosa, and Union Correctional Institutions.
Thanks to Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature, during the 2022 Legislative session, the FDC received record pay increases to retain and recruit public servants to continue the agency’s crucial public safety mission. These historic pay increases and other incentives have shown early signs of success, with net gain nearly 640 officers since the conclusion of the 2022 session, compared to a net loss of more than 465 in the same amount of time prior. As these successful measures continue to bring more highly qualified officers to the FDC, this action and partnership will address officer vacancies on a temporary, short-term basis.
Florida National Guard members will supplement security posts at select institutions, under the direction of the Warden and facility command staff. Guardsman will undergo training from FDC’s staff development office to equip them with the knowledge necessary to work alongside Florida’s corrections professionals.
Here is what law enforcement leaders across the state are saying about the FDC and Florida National Guard Partnership:
“We received historic pay increases for our correctional officers and have hired more correctional officers monthly than we have seen in years,” said Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Ricky Dixon. “With the temporary support of the Florida National Guard we will be able to recover and train the next generation of public safety professionals to perform our important mission.”
“The Florida Sheriffs Association supports the request by the Department of Corrections for activation of the Florida National Guard to assist with short-term staffing at some prisons. This will support public safety by ensuring inmates who need to be transferred from local jails after sentencing can be received by the department in a timely and appropriate manner,” said Sheriff Al Nienhuis, President of the Florida Sheriffs Association
“I am personally seeing our agency turnaround. For the first time in years our institution is hiring more staff each month than we are losing, and this would not have been possible without the pay raises we received from the Governor and Legislature last session. I appreciate this added step being taken so we can train our new staff and safely operate our facilities,” said Warden Aaron Leavins, Santa Rosa Correctional Institution
“We are not going to release dangerous criminals to prey on the citizens and tourists of this state. I applaud the Secretary for requesting this action to activate the Florida National Guard,” said Sheriff Grady Judd, Polk County
“As a recently retired Guardsman of 32 years, I fully appreciate the preparedness and support functions of Florida’s National Guard and am honored to have them working alongside our staff,” said Warden Paul Allen, Wakulla Correctional Institution. “Under Secretary Dixon’s steadfast leadership, and with continued support from Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature, we will continue to hire and retain the finest correctional professionals nationwide.”
“For the last several years, the Corrections Chapter of the Florida PBA has sounded the alarm about the worsening staffing crisis in our prisons, which has resulted in our Correctional Officers being forced to work excessive amounts of overtime that has taken a negative toll on their health. We are pleased that Governor DeSantis and the FDC are taking emergency measures in proposing a short-term solution which will provide our members with immediate relief. We will continue to fight for additional pay raises in the next legislative session, which we believe will help with staff retention and provide a long-term solution to this staffing crisis,” said James Baiardi, President of the Florida Corrections Chapter Florida PBA
“On the heels of a breakthrough pay raise, and increase in applicants across the state, we are pleased to welcome these Guard members into our institutions to provide support,” said Warden Robert Mercado, DeSoto Correctional Institution. “Their presence, combined with a shift in momentum of filling vacancies paves a pathway for a strong return to success.”
“We recognize the Florida Department of Corrections is an important part of the criminal justice system as a whole, and the work they do is crucial to maintaining rule of law in Florida. I applaud the Department for taking a bold step by requesting the Florida National Guard to support public safety across our county and our state,” said Sheriff Brad Whitehead, Union County
“The prospect of having Guardsman come in while we continue to fill vacancies and train new correctional professionals is incredible,” said Warden Joseph Edwards, Reception and Medical Center. “We’re seeing an increase in applicants since the gracious pay raise and are looking forward to the road ahead.”To read Executive Order 22-213 Activating Florida National Guard to Assist the Department of Corrections click here.
As Florida's largest state agency, and the third largest state prison system in the country, FDC employs 24,000 members, incarcerates 80,000 inmates and supervises nearly 146,000 offenders in the community.