FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 13, 2021
Contact: FDC Communications
Secretary's Message to Inmates and Offenders: Find A Place
You are not where you want to be. I know this. Whether you planned the crime you committed or a series of events and influences affected your criminal reaction to a situation, I am confident that not one of you sought out a stay with the Florida Department of Corrections, or would have sought out supervision by a probation officer. But here you are, and here we are…now what?
In the nearly three years I have been with you, I have learned that you like options on where you serve your time. You prefer some prisons over others. This may be because of safety, education opportunities, or because you want to be close to your loved ones or hometown. Our system is spread across the State, but 65% of our available beds are in the North and perhaps far from your home and family. And pending on resourcing or available volunteers, each institution does have a unique set of programs.
For those on probation, it is less about location, but what programs and assistance we can offer to you, especially those of you struggling with addictions or job placement. When I look back to January 2019, when I first arrived, FDC operated about 3000 substance use treatment and prevention seats in our institutions or in community settings. Over the last two and half years, I am pleased that we have more than doubled the available drug treatment spaces for you, with plans to expand our capacity even more over the next few years.
We have expanded programs and supervision incentives across our system, changed how we house inmates with short-sentences, and opened incentivized prisons. Over the next year, we will make four more prisons incentivized. Our goal is to continue to convert institutions to this model until everyone that meets the standards and wants to move to one of these locations, will be able to do so. Imagine a prison that has not had a single assault in over a year, that is and can be a reality.
We also implemented peer-to-peer dorms throughout the state. These dorms are peer-driven communities where you are housed together with others that have a common goal of positive change and growth. We implemented re-entry seminars at every institution and created an inmate mentoring program at the short sentence correctional institutions with plans to expand this very successful program to other sites and to groups with longer time to serve.
We continue to expand career and technical education. Two years ago, only one institution had a commercial driver’s license program. We now provide CDL at nine locations and recently expanded the program to men and women on probation living in the community. We’ve added heavy equipment operator simulators, expanded masonry programs, carpentry and more. We are expanding college education opportunities through the Second Chance Pell Grant and other grants.
Our volunteers are returning, bringing back so many opportunities. We want your community to come and start a mentoring relationship with you to go beyond your sentence, whether you go under community supervision or not. Our faith and character dorms are getting back to their full curriculum. We are working very hard to maintain visitation, education classes, and organized worship and study programs. We have reduced probation office visit requirements while increasing officer presence in the community. Community release centers continue to offer work and training opportunities across the state.
We are going in the right direction and we intend to go further to provide you better opportunities to make positive choices.
But not all is going well. We have made some tough choices to keep you and our staff safe. We have suspended many work squads and temporarily closed over half of our work camps. Flooding forced us to close the Cross City Correctional Institution, and the main unit will remain closed for the near future. We will temporarily close New River and Baker Correctional Institutions. We will also temporarily close five community release centers, though most participants will move over to other centers.
We will have to make unscheduled moves, and at times temporarily use emergency beds in some dorms. Some moves may impact your programs. I apologize for these unscheduled moves and housing arrangements.
It will be my goal to maximize space at incentivized prisons. That means, some of you on the waiting list will move earlier to an established IP or move into one of our four new IPs still in transition. If we are going to be tight at any location, let’s do it at the locations with the best services and inmates who have committed to making positive choices.
It is my belief that the various actions we are taking are temporary. We remain committed to expanding programs and locations where you can focus on and benefit from your positive choices, to FIND YOUR PLACE for self-improvement and preparation for the future.
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.