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Gov. Rick Scott's budget includes cleaning up Florida prison system

More than $50 million to go to prison system

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Cleaning up Florida's prison system will be a top priority for legislators this year and after the governor unveiled his budget plans for prisons, corrections officials are confident they can get it done.

On Monday, a Senate panel will hold another meeting on prison reform and will look at a bill that would punish guards who abuse inmates, as well as other staff that contribute to prisoner mistreatment.

Gov. Rick Scott's $77 billion budget proposal includes more than $50 million of new money designed to clean up Florida's prison system.

New Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones said it's a good start.

"We've been able to take a very strategic approach to the agency's needs -- leverage existing resources to get a very large push in filling positions," Jones said.

With more than 340 recorded deaths, 2014 was the deadliest year on record for Florida prison inmates. Hundreds of the deaths are currently being investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. FDLE and former Chief Gerald Bailey, who was fired, had requested funds to help with the case load. Scott didn't include that money.

"The governor's office did not fund that particular issue now, but they've committed to funding it once FDLE and I come to an agreement with an MOU and then give the governor's office an estimate for the resources we'll need going forward," Jones said.

House and Senate leaders said they're ready to do whatever they can to help fix the system. "I don't know what the answers are so I can't commit to a certain issue or what have you, but we've always worked closely with the department on budget requests," said Rep. Steve Crisafulli. "I don't ever remember us saying, ‘No, we're not going to give you the tools to be successful.'"

Some of the money proposed in the governor's budget would go toward filling 300 staff vacancies, which critics say is still not enough.