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DOC Secretary Details Issues Caused By Staffing Shortage

Jeffrey Zalesny
Adobe Stock

Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Mark Inch wants to implement 8-and-a-half-hour shifts at all state correctional institutions. Right now, 12-hour shifts are in place at most facilities. Governor Ron DeSantis has included $31 million in his proposed budget to support the change.

Inch says a staffing shortage compounded with 12-hour shifts can make covering all of Florida’s 50 correctional institutions difficult.

"What is most common actually is mid-shift, especially mid-midnight shift. When there’s a holdover from the 12 hours prior we can go up to 16 hours," said Inch. "So at 16 hours then you hit a dead period for 4 hours before you can pull somebody in from the next shift."

Last fiscal year that issue led to critical security posts being unmanned for a total of 500,000 hours. And Inch says when the officer to inmate ratio is low, inmates are more likely to act violently. In January, there were 105 inmate assaults on prison staff reported. He described two of them.

"At Santa Rosa CI on January 19, Officer Levern was stabbed in the chest by an inmate incarcerated for second-degree murder," said Inch. "At Florida State Prison on January 30, Officer Greene was attacked and injured by an unknown inmate while searching a mop closet. Outside the line of sight of a camera or a control room. He was the only officer working in that dorm."

In September, Inch transitioned 17 facilities to 8.5-hour shifts. He says he’s already seen an increase in staff effectiveness and morale as well as a reduction in unmanned posts.

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Blaise Gainey is a Multimedia Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.
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