Florida's prisons are so “chronically understaffed” for even the most basic daily routines that an emergency should be declared to keep corrections officers and inmates safe, an audit commissioned by the state corrections department concluded, reports the Miami Herald. The lack of staff costs the state millions in overtime costs, encourages vacancies, falls below national standards and exposes taxpayers to increased costs if a murder, riot or escape occurs at a state prison, the report by the U.S. Justice Department’s National Institute of Corrections says. The solution “will require a significant commitment of attention and resources and the fortitude to make tough decisions,” the report notes.
“Since January, the secretary has been saying this over and over again,” said department spokesman McKinley Lewis, noting that Corrections Secretary Julie Jones received $17.5 million to hire 300 additional employees. Jones says her budget includes a request for 273 more officers at a cost of $14 million, on top of the additional staff she received last year. Auditors with the National Institute of Corrections visited six facilities in August and September and reviewed staffing documents across the state. They concluded that the agency was in violation of state rules that require it to declare a “staffing emergency” every time a prison is below the minimum level to remain safe for basic operations.