In an unprecedented moment of candor, Florida’s newly installed prisons chief told a Senate committee that private contractors have provided inadequate medical care to Florida’s inmates while crumbling infrastructure and years of staffing cuts have fostered “culture” problems in the massive agency, reports the Tampa Bay Times. Corrections Secretary Julie Jones had intended to present the Senate Criminal Justice Committee with a variety of reforms she is proposing to the system that has seen a 13 percent increase in inmate deaths in the past year, but the committee had other ideas. As Jones told the lawmakers about her priorities to focus on rebuilding decades-old buildings, adequately staff the agency and better handle the growing number of mentally ill inmates, committee members peppered her with questions.
“The media reports that we’ve seen are not only disquieting but disturbing to my sense of humanity,” said Sen. Jeff Clemens. Jones agreed that “Yes, we have a culture issue,” but noted that unless legislators restore hundreds of positions cut from the budget in the first four years of Gov. Rick Scott’s tenure, other changes may be inadequate.”Staffing is key to lowering the temperature in these facilities,” she said. Jones added that training was also needed to raise the level of professionalism and change expectations. “They feel they don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing,” she said of staff. “They’re doing it the way their daddy did it and their granddaddy did it.”