Coalition calls for major overhaul of Florida's prison system

Croup says current model is failing prisoners, employees, taxpayers


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A think tank from one of the state's top universities is calling for a major overhaul of Florida's prison system. The group said the current model is failing prisoners, employees and taxpayers.

The report also suggests that the governor no longer appoint secretaries to lead the department, which has seen changes in leadership six times over the past eight years.

Florida's prison system is broken. That's the message from a new report released from a coalition of public safety advocates known as the Project on Accountable Justice.

Former Florida Sheriff and Judge Allison DeFoor chairs the group.

"Let me be crystal clear on this: The system is broken. It doesn't matter how good the secretary is. If the system is broken, we've got to take a look at this systemically or it's not going to get fixed," said DeFoor.

The Department of Corrections has been the subject of numerous reports citing prison corruption and alleged inmate abuse, sometimes resulting in death.

"One would hope when prisoners were being cooked like chickens that would shock all of us into taking a look at what we're doing," said DeFoor.

The report recommends having an oversight commission instead of just one secretary in power. The study also suggest raising hiring standards and expediting performance reviews.

The Department of Corrections was reached out for a comment on the report. It responded with some numbers that could indicate new policies are working.

The department sent a chart showing the decline in use-of-force incidents between guards and prisoners this year -- 616 were reported in July with only 427 reported last month.

The numbers coincide with a crackdown that current secretary Mike Crews implemented when reports started surfacing. DeFoor isn't convinced.

"Things that can't go on will stop and I think that's what's going to happen here," said DeFoor. "This can't go on."

It's expected the legislature will address some problems in 2015.