Florida prisons chief Julie Jones has asked the 12 top officials of the state Department of Corrections to reapply for their jobs as part of a major realignment designed to centralize power at the agency, reports the Miami Herald. The result will have the effect of either allowing Jones to reject any of the high-ranking officials at the embattled agency without having to fire them, or keep the veteran officers in place and consolidate her power. Jones was appointed secretary of the agency by Gov. Rick Scott in January and is its seventh boss in nearly as many years.
For the last two years, the Miami Herald has chronicled a pattern of deadly abuse in Florida prisons, staff cover-ups and intimidation tactics used to quiet complaints by inmates and prison officials. A May 8 executive order by Jones attempted to address many of those problems by increasing accountability at the agency. It focused on tightening regulations relating to the use of force, protecting employees from retaliation when they report wrongdoing, and improving the tracking of chemical agents used to subdue disruptive inmates. Since then, the agency has fired 316 employees and assisted in the arrest of eight corrections officers for a range of offenses.