Central Florida Jails Get Glowing Reviews Despite Problems

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When it comes to grading Central Florida’s jails, every facility generates near-perfect grades and glowing reviews, says the Orlando Sentinel. Florida Corrections Accreditation Commission and inspectors measuring the Florida Model Jail Standards each gave high grades to the Osceola jail just before two inmate escapes and another incident in which an inmate was accidentally released. Both systems failed to note the jail had incorrectly installed razor wire. The evaluations also missed deep morale problems and ethical lapses among corrections officers – issues that helped lead to the recent disciplining of 30 officers, the voluntary demotions of two captains, the resignation of the jail director and the firing of the county manager.

Other states employ specialized inspectors. These systems are not free of political pressures, but proponents say they provide more objective oversight of facilities that few community and political leaders pay attention to – until there is an inmate death, escape or riot. Said Daniel Keen, director of the Office of County Inspection and Services with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. “We’re not going to rubber-stamp something. We’re going to put it on paper and say, ‘Here are the facts.’ ” About 28 states have some state-level system of mandatory oversight, said Michele Deitch, a jail-oversight expert at the University of Texas. Florida is not among the 28. It’s not enough for inspectors to tour a facility for a day or two, Deitch said. They need to be there long enough for the behavior of jail employees and inmates to return to normal. “It’s when inspectors are flies on the wall that they notice stuff,” she said.

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