Inmate Lookup Free Nationwide Inmate Search Logo


Gov. DeSantis recommends additional National Guard deployment to bolster Florida prisons staffing

09 Dec 2023, Jail News, by

Governor DeSantis seeks legislative approval to extend National Guard support, addressing persistent staffing challenges in Florida prisons.

Gov. DeSantis recommends additional National Guard deployment to bolster Florida prisons staffing - Inmate Lookup

Governor DeSantis’ administration is proposing a plan to deploy an additional 100 National Guard members to Florida prisons, along with acquiring leased trailers to address housing needs for them and their families.

This initiative comes a little over a year after the National Guard was initially called upon to assist the state Department of Corrections due to persistent staffing shortages and high turnover rates. Despite efforts such as hiring bonuses and salary increases for correctional officers, the challenges of maintaining adequate staffing levels persist.

In September 2022, Governor DeSantis issued an executive order activating the National Guard to tackle the staffing shortage on a temporary basis. This order has been extended, and currently, 300 guard members are actively working in Florida prisons.

To further support this effort, the Department of Corrections has submitted a funding request of $23.5 million to the Joint Legislative Budget Commission. This amount is intended to cover the salaries of 100 additional guard members at state prisons until the end of the fiscal year on June 30. An additional $1.6 million is also sought to purchase currently leased modular homes to continue housing guard personnel.

According to the funding request, the modular home funding is specifically designated to acquire 58 units, each capable of housing up to five guard members and their families. The Senate told the News Service, a Florida news agency, that guard personnel will pay $50 every other week, including utilities, to live on site. These units would be utilized to accommodate correctional officers once the National Guard is no longer deployed to prisons.
In rural North Florida, many prison guards are already using the trailers, including in Washington, Santa Rosa, and Jackson, among others.

Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Chairwoman Jennifer Bradley emphasized the necessity of addressing security and staffing needs, stating that not having adequate security and staffing is not an option.

Despite improvements in the recruitment and hiring of correctional officers, the challenges persist. New officers undergo a 13-week training program, causing delays in their assignment to critical posts. The proposal seeks to extend and expand the activation of Florida National Guard guardsmen to assist the Florida Department of Corrections through June 30, 2024, at an estimated cost of $23.5 million, according to the proposal.

The duties of the National Guard members do not include direct supervision of inmates, except in normal control station situations or emergencies related to safety and security. The move to deploy more National Guard members follows a comprehensive study indicating that the state needs to invest at least $2.2 billion in retrofits, repairs, and staffing to address immediate needs in the correctional system.

During an appearance before Bradley’s committee on Oct. 11, Department of Corrections Secretary Ricky Dixon addressed the presence of the National Guard in the system, indicating a crisis situation and the need for continued support. According to Dixon, they are emerging from a crisis, but releasing the National Guard is not viable at the moment.

The decision to deploy more guard members follows a study highlighting the necessity of investing at least $2.2 billion for immediate corrections system needs, as identified in a report by consulting firm KPMG. The report detailed issues such as leaking roofs and old doors, to name a few.

Jeff Goodale, a subcontractor on the report, described Florida prisons’ situation as a “perfect storm,” stressing the inevitable stress and crisis these systems face. Despite salary hikes and bonuses contributing to improvements, Bradley acknowledged persistent challenges, particularly in regions grappling with high vacancy rates, likely exacerbated by the physical condition of facilities.

Governor DeSantis’ budget proposal for 2024–2025 includes $87.7 million to enhance correctional infrastructure statewide.

Bradley recognizes the National Guard deployment as a necessary but temporary solution, and she anticipates the need for ongoing improvement under Secretary Dixon’s leadership.