Florida – Florida Legislators agreed on Wednesday to provide more than $25 million to expand the number of Florida National Guard personnel employed in prisons due to a staffing deficit and the growing number of inmates.
Currently leased trailers to be purchased for these members
Members of the House and Senate who are part of the Joint Legislative Budget Commission also brought another important decision – purchasing the 58 trailers that are currently rented. According to this decision, the National Guard and their families will be housed in these trailers in the future.
Lavitta Stanford, the Florida Department of Corrections’ Budget Director, informed the congressional committee that new hires still require to undergo 13 weeks of training despite the fact that the recruitment and hiring of correctional officers has improved in recent years. Up until June 30, 2024, the Florida National Guard will assist in lowering the workload and overtime for present employees.
One hundred additional guard members to be hired until the end of June
One hundred additional guard members will be paid with around $23.5 million as part of the plan to work in prisons across the state of Florida through June 30, which marks the end of the fiscal year.
It’s important to note that these guard members won’t have to deal with inmates in any way. The proposal that went to lawmakers clearly explains this part saying that members’ duties “exclude any direct supervision of inmates, except where such supervision occurs as a normal part of manning control stations or when required in an emergency situation pertaining to safety and security.”
Additionally, $1.6 million was requested in order to buy “currently leased modular homes to continue housing” guard personnel. In order to reside in the trailers, which would eventually be occupied by correctional officers, the members are required to pay $50 every other week.
As 300 guard members were assigned to work in the prison system, the state directed $30 million in compliance with an executive order made by Governor Ron DeSantis in September 2022.
Increased starting pay and bonuses to overcome the staffing problem
The Legislature has increased starting pay and permitted hiring and retention bonuses for correctional officers in an attempt to alleviate the high turnover rates and staffing shortages in prisons; yet, issues still exist.