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Governor reforms prisons with executive order

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order Friday cracking down on the violent culture within Florida’s prison system.

The order includes provisions addressing safety, transparency and holding guards, wardens and Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones accountable.

Newspaper investigations have detailed a series of unexplained inmates deaths, allegations of retaliation against whistle blowers and reports of guards targeting African-American inmates.

Scott directed Jones to implement a series of policies including:

  • Requiring each employee who applies physical force upon an inmate to sign an independent report under oath detailing the incident within one working day
  • Develop an inventory policy to track the use of chemical agents
  • Provide additional training for sexual abuse investigations in confinement
  • Contract with security experts for safety and security consultant services
  • Add safety as a priority to the security review

Scott also ordered Jones to increase the number of DOC operations regions from three to four and detailed regional directors’ responsibilities.

The executive order outlines those duties as:

  • Holding subordinates responsible for appropriate disciplinary decisions
  • Ensuring a retaliation-free environment for each correctional facility
  • Make at least two unannounced visits quarterly to each correctional facility under the director’s command
  • Review each quarter use of force reports, grievances inmates filed and discipline reports of employees.

“The steps outlined in today’s executive order present a clear path forward for the Department of Corrections,” said Scott. “The Department’s number one focus is the safety of Florida’s correctional officers, communities and the inmates in state custody and supervision.”

State Sen. Gregg Evers was working on a comprehensive corrections reform package that died when the 2015 Regular Session ended early over a budget dispute between the House and Senate.

The corrections department came under scrutiny after a series of Miami Herald reports last year that examined inmates’ deaths in Florida prisons. The investigation found several cases where inmates died after being abused or neglected by corrections officers.

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