Florida prison chief Julie Jones says that to reshape the culture of her troubled agency, she has hired more than 2,200 new prison guards in the last year but has lost another 1,400 as staff turnover continues to undercut her efforts. “We’re taking an aggressive approach,” Jones told the House Justice Appropriations subcommittee, reports the Miami Herald. The Florida Department of Corrections has been on the defensive as the agency shifted payroll money to pay for prison repairs in the face of years of inadequate funding from lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott. Scott appointed Jones in January to head the agency through a period of reports of inmate abuse and coverups.
At Dade Correctional Institution in Miami, 70 percent of the officers have less than two years experience, Jones said. “We’re training, training, training and losing them,” she said. Jones said she has even started writing officials at county jails to urge them not lure away her staff. A recent independent audit of the agency’s use of force against inmates cited both lack of training and inadequate staffing levels as a problem that continues at the agency. The FDOC Teamsters United, a group of South Florida members of the union that represents corrections officers, said the state lost 7,600 officers from 2012 to 2014, and the primary reason was pay. “A lot of those officers are working second jobs,” said Kimberly Schultz, a probation officer. “They’re not working second jobs to go on vacation. They’re working second jobs to pay the bills.”