Scott Advisers Blast Prison System and Juvenile Justice

By: John Kennedy, The News Service of Florida
By: John Kennedy, The News Service of Florida


Advisers to Gov.-elect Rick Scott called Tuesday for sweeping overhauls to the juvenile justice and prisons system, ridiculing both as failing to meet the needs of those confined to them while also wasting millions of taxpayers’ dollars.

The 25-member law and order transition team, comprised mostly of law enforcement and public safety officials, blasted the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice and Corrections Department, while also firing a couple shots in the direction of state lawmakers. Several names also were mentioned in passing as potential hires for a Scott administration that has been slow to take shape, even as his Jan. 4 inauguration bears down.

Florida lawmakers’ decision last spring to cut $10 million from the state’s Healthy Families program, a roughly 40 percent reduction, was described by the transition team as a “glaring, shameful, foolish example of `penny-wise, pound-foolish,’” thinking by the Legislature. Scott was advised that the program aimed at helping prevent child abuse and neglect should be a central part of reducing youth crime and delinquency.

Frank Peterman, DJJ’s secretary under outgoing Gov. Charlie Crist -- among a handful of appointees not asked to remain for the opening days of the Scott administration -- isn’t singled-out by name. But the agency’s leadership is roundly criticized – with Peterman’s successor urged to have a powerful, new deputy called the “assistant secretary of service coordination,” charged with dismantling the “silos” approach the transition team said plagues the department.

The deputy’s central role would be to coordinate services for the thousands of youth served by department’s wide-ranging community, detention and probation programs.

Judy Estren, vice-president of AmiKids, Inc., in Tampa, was touted as having the “training, expertise…and national reputation,” appropriate for the spot, by Scott’s team. Another former DJJ administrator, Dr. Shairee Turner, now with the state’s Department of Health, should be brought back to the agency by the incoming governor to assist with mental health services.

Her return, Scott was told, “would be invaluable.”

Another top goal: cutting by half the $5,500 per-youth average cost for the agency, Scott’s advisers said. Still, they were also critical of what they described as “tough on crime, but fiscally short-sighted legislators.”

Those reviewing Florida’s Corrections Department, where Scott is looking to save $1 billion over seven years, were even more blunt in their assessment.

“Our team found that DOC is broken. It is lacking leadership, vision and courage,” the transition team said, opening its report.

While Scott is seen as having little warmth toward the state’s Police Benevolent Association, which represents correctional officers and ran television ads attacking his $1 billion in proposed prison savings, his advisers offered some praise to lower-level staff across the sprawling, 55-prison system.

“If it were not for those people in middle management and at staff levels, the organization would have collapsed long ago,” wrote the transition team, whose members included Henree Martin, a prison ministry leader, Robert Woody, Alachua County’s jail director, Linda Mills, a Collins Center for Public Policy consultant, and Paul Hoisington, a Net Communications vice-president.

Among the changes the team recommended are a push toward decentralizing the corrections system, giving more authority to regional directors and overhauling the agency’s management structure. A current eight-person regional administration could be reduced to three directors, the team told Scott.

Drawing a harsh evaluation was PRIDE, the state’s prison industries organization, which pays its president and two lobbyists more than $521,000 annually, while maintaining 56 employees paid more than $50,000 annually on its payroll, according to Scott advisers. The team acknowledged that PRIDE has been targeted for elimination or sweeping change by several state review panels, but has managed to endure.

The department’s inspector general also was recommended for movement out of DOC and into a more independent role – possibly in the office of the governor. Two youth boot camps, Sumter and Lowell, were earmarked for closure by Scott’s advisers.

Sentencing reform and the expansion of faith-based prisons also were urged on the new administration as a means to save money and instill values and skills to keep inmates from returning behind bars.

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  • by JOE Location: starke florida on Dec 30, 2010 at 03:40 PM
    I work for the department of corrections in the vehicular department. We have escape dog trucks broken and parked because they need 20 dollar brake pads.This is at a prison that holds death row by the way .Half of the gun towers are unmanned.With the exception of the wardens vehicles ,they all have 200 thousand plus miles. Some have over 300 thousand. You can see the road through the holes in the floor board as you drive on some.All Because WE HAVE NO MONEY.And yes we use Inmate labor to fix them so its just the cost for parts.we have not seen a raise in 5 YEARS.Half of the dorm lights are blown because there is no money for bulbs.If it were not for donations the prison system would stop functioning. It is a broken system. I have suggested going to the junk yard to save money, but we are not allowed to buy from them.!? However when we do get to spend anything 5 People have to approve it. And he wats to cut a billion out of that? Better let a bunch out over the next 7 years!!
  • by Wantanswers Location: Palm Beach County on Dec 28, 2010 at 05:30 AM
    We need to look at our sentencing guideline like in Palm Beach County. Our jails are over-crowed because no matter what you might have done even a Violation of Probation, the State Attorney just wants to give you prison time no matter what. Even if you haven't broken any laws and haven't had any new crimes in over eight years, haven't missed a Probation appointment, haven't failed a drug test, did all your community service hours and classes, have your own business and is not a threat to the community - make one mistake and the Palm Beach County State Attorney will place you in prison for three years. Maybe that is where we need to start at. Not everyone needs to be sent to prison, there are other ways to deal with certain Violations. We have to many inmates in our over-crowned jails/prisons as it is. Start with Palm Beach County and go from there. And unless you have been an inmate in our system, you really have no clue what they might and might not get while in Prison/Jail
  • by random CO Location: tallahassee on Dec 22, 2010 at 07:12 PM
    look DOC is cut to the bone already. yes there are many top level jobs you can cut or trim how much they get payed.but as far as the low level guys, we are goin on bare minium. we r poorly staffed due to many "trimmin the fat" cuts that are wonderful government has puttin on DOC over the past years. we have not seen a raise in 5 YEARS. however state troopers have gotten a raise 4 out of the past 5 years. DOC is bone thin from all these cuts. do these people ever think morale is down from thses cuts?
  • by I should know Location: Tallahassee on Dec 22, 2010 at 04:52 PM
    It's not as easy as people think. What you see on TV is not Florida Prisons. There is no cable, no real meat, no recreation equipment except through donations, 1 small bar of soap per week, 1 roll of toilet paper, 3 outfits, slide-on canvas shoes called bobo's. State prison is NOT the same thing as a county jail. Not by a long stretch! I don't have sympathy for criminals, but I can tell you (since I work in one) the actually facilities are cut to the bone already. Officers can't even get coats and most of us finally gave up on waiting on uniforms and bought our own. I take my own soap and office supplies. Can't comment on upper level folks because I don't have accurate information, but there is just nothing left to cut at the prison level.
  • by Anonymous on Dec 22, 2010 at 10:56 AM
    Inmates need three, shelter, a someone to make sure they behave...everything else is too much!
  • by The Taxpay Yours Location: Tallahahaha$ee on Dec 22, 2010 at 10:24 AM
    The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world at 754 persons in prison or jail per 100,000 U.S. residents (as of 2008). A report released Feb. 28, 2008 indicates that more than 1 in 100 adults in the United States are in prison. The United States has less than 5% of the world's population and 23.4% of the world's prison population. It is estimated that 1 in 9 state government employees works in The Department of Collections.
  • by J. Location: Tallahassee on Dec 22, 2010 at 09:31 AM
    Governor Elect Scott already seems to know everything needed to know about running the state of Florida. There is a reason, why certain routines are in place and have remained in place all these years.
  • by Huh? on Dec 22, 2010 at 08:39 AM
    put inmates to work in manufacturing and sell the products for revenue. i would rather buy an inmate made product than see one more "made in China" sticker
  • by Amen! Location: Tally on Dec 22, 2010 at 07:56 AM
    I totally agree with you oh puh-lease! For way too long, prisoners have way, way too many privileges. They are in jail, stop allowing them to have the things that some people on the outside of those walls can't afford. Let them eat baloney sandwiches, drink water, and put their butts outside to work on the streets. Maybe they could help fill in all the pot holes in Tallahassee, that would be a good start.
  • by oh puh-lease on Dec 22, 2010 at 07:31 AM
    You want to save money in the prisons? Cut the television cable service, let them eat baloney sandwiches and quit pampering them. After all, this is jail.
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