Florida Department of Corrections is Florida’s largest state agency and is the third-largest state prison system in the country. There are 128 Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) facilities including 50 major institutions 15 annexes, 7 private facilities (contracts overseen by Florida Department of Management Services), 20 work camps, 3 re-entry centers, 2 road prisons/forestry camps, 1 basic training camp, 9 FDC operated work release centers and 21 work release centers operated by private vendors where FDC oversees the contracts. These facilities incarcerate convicted felons and individuals sentenced to serve more than one year in incarceration. The department’s staff is over 24,000 and oversees 80,000 incarcerated inmates and approximately 146,000 offenders on active community supervision.

As you might imagine the funding required to run, staff, and maintain such a large agency and its facilities is enormous. Yes, it is! The Florida Department of Corrections has an annual budget of $3.4 billion. Even though the billions number might seem to be more than enough to provide for FDC’s needs, it just simply can’t keep up with the rigorous demand of continued convicted incarcerated offenders and supervised active community offenders. That is why there is an additional 2024 proposed funding for FDC for special risk retirement benefits, security equipment, training, infrastructure improvements, repairs, maintenance, and support facilities.

The proposed funding allocates $14 million to provide Special Risk Retirement benefits for positions that spend more than 75 percent of their time in direct contact with correctional patients or inmates. There is also $24.5 million proposed to make correctional facilities safer. The $24.5 million allocates “$12 million for security equipment, such as drone detection equipment, thermal fence cameras, drone support for K-9 operations, and license plate reader; 34 full-time employees and $3.5 million to modernize departmental training and begin the process of having dedicated training staff at each facility; and $9 million to improve infrastructure including environmental systems, regional evidence facilities, maintenance, repairs, and renovations.”

There was also $87.7 million proposed to improve correctional infrastructure. This allocation is composed of “$75 million for general maintenance and repair at facilities across the state; $12 million for support facilities, including creating regional evidence storage facilities for the Office of Inspector General; and $750,000 for repairs related to ADA compliance.” Just remember the additional demands for this agency stem from the crimes committed and the number of individuals convicted here in our Great State.

Another agency that is fundamental to the convictions of individuals is the State Court System. They have also experienced the need for workload support. The 2024 budget provides $5.1 million and an additional 20 full-time employees for workload support and additional resources for due process to the State Court System.

We haven’t ever in history been able to achieve a crimeless society. Unfortunately, many of the crimes committed and prosecuted today stem from Washington’s bad policymaking. For example, the “Open Borders Policy”, which we all know has provided an opioid epidemic here in the United States and in Florida which demands enormous funding for combatting and prosecuting. I encourage you to vote in 2024 for leadership which will provide not only funding but policies that will keep our community safe. Also, vote for leadership that will stand firm to defeat bad policies that hurt our community and its citizens. I will leave you with that thought and that concludes this week’s The Straight Truth With Mary Ann Hutton.