A legislative panel will review a plan to mobilize members of the Florida National Guard to assist at prisons next week as the state continues to struggle with a shortage of correctional officers, according to a document released on Friday. On September 9, the Joint Legislative Budget Commission is scheduled to discuss a proposal to remove $31.25 million, which would, at least in part, be used to pay for the expenses associated with activating National Guard members.
The proposal stated that the Florida Department of Corrections was working a lot of overtime due to a shortage of correctional officers. “The Florida National Guard members will be activated to assist the FDC (Department of Corrections) at facilities for nine months or until the FDC determines it no longer needs National Guard assistance to reduce overtime and provide relief to existing correctional officers.”
The proposal did not specify the number of members of the National Guard who could be called into service. Still, it did state that their responsibilities would “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 about safety and security.”
The Guard members will act as temporary relief to support current staff and give the FDC more time and resources to hire and train new employees through increased recruitment and retention efforts. Florida has long struggled with a shortage of correctional officers and recently implemented measures to help engage and retain officers, such as raising pay.
Officers have had to put in a lot of overtime and supervise many prisoners due to the shortages. Department informed Senators of Corrections Secretary Ricky Dixon in January that the organization had a “significant vacancy rate” of 5,849 open correctional officer positions. He claimed that the available positions had an impact on the workplace.
“The conditions deteriorated, the amount of overtime required, and the safety aspect has had a significant impact on our agency because of the void in the workforce,” he said. Mid-year budget decisions can be made by the Joint Legislative Budget Commission, which is composed of the leaders of the House and Senate.
According to the prison’s proposal, the Department of Corrections would essentially be able to contract with the state Department of Military Affairs for the activation. The plan also includes funding for “other contracted staff options available at Florida county facilities,” which would be paid for by the Department of Corrections.
The panel will also discuss distributing funds to initiatives and programs across the state through a brand-new procedure called “Local Support Grants” at its meeting the following week. Two hundred thirty-nine spending proposals totaling $175 million were included in a list released on Friday as part of the commission’s meeting materials. To enable lawmakers to apply for the grants, they hid money in the state budget’s fine print.