Lawmakers aghast at prisons budget exercise

From the Tallahassee Democrat:

As legislators went to work on budget cuts that might be necessary to meet a projected nearly $2-billion revenue shortfall, the Department of Corrections distributed a grim preview of what a 10-percent across-the-board cut might mean for prisons. Sen. Bill Montford, DTallahassee, said even tossing out the idea of seven-day employee furloughs, a 1-percent pay cut and consolidating about 4,000 prison beds was “totally disrespectful” of state employees.

For instance, the DOC exercise included such things as:

  • Cut pay 1 percent for all prison employees, saving $8.2 million,
  • Furlough for seven days all 6,600 “noncertified” employees — the office workers, not correctional officers — for a $5-millionsavings,
  • Implement 12-hour shifts, saving nearly $9 million while eliminating 676 positions,
  • Consolidate prisons to cut 1,138 jobs and save $65 million.
  • Increase probation case loads from 25-1 to 30 per officer, drug-offender probation from 50 per officer to 55-1, and raising violent offender supervision caseloads from 40 to 45 per officer. That would eliminate 188 positions and save nearly $12 million,
  • Dump misdemeanor offenders back to the counties, saving $2.3 million and cutting 44 DOC jobs.
  • Reduce prison health services by 10 percent, saving $32.7 million.
  • Reduce basic officer training from 10 weeks to four, saving $7.5 million.
  • Eliminate uniform allowances for officers, saving $3.7 million.

“They are not cuts, they are proposed reductions based on what the department was told to do,” said Fasano. “This is a formality. We seldom take all of those recommendations and many we would never be able to accept.”
Montford said North Florida’s economy depends largely on prisons and public schools for employment. He said “the fact that they’re thinking along these lines,” with pay cuts and furloughs in the prison system, would send an ominous message to state employees all over Florida.

“This would be devastating, not only for North Florida but for the whole state,” said Montford. “Even though this is a ‘budget exercise,’ the employees and their families in North Florida will see this as a threat to their security.”

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