House Speaker Oliva points to ‘notable increase’ for corrections

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – As prison officials push to give correctional officers better pay, House Speaker Jose Oliva said Tuesday his chamber is looking at a “notable increase” for corrections staff in the upcoming state budget.

“This is an area that this year, we are looking to have a notable increase because it is important and it is needed,” Oliva said during an interview on the Preston Scott show on WFLA radio in Tallahassee.

Retaining correctional officers has been an ongoing problem in the Florida prison system.

To deal with a worker shortage, the state last year lowered the minimum age to work as a correctional officer from 19 to 18.

During the 2020 legislative session, which starts Jan. 14, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Corrections Secretary Mark Inch are seeking money for two initiatives, totaling close to $90 million, that would go toward staff retention. The proposals would move one-third of Florida’s corrections officers from 12-hour shifts to 8.5-hour workdays and give pay increases of $1,500 at two years of service and $2,500 at five years of service.

Oliva cited a desire for fiscal restraint when asked about giving state workers across-the-board raises and did not provide details about the additional corrections money.

“Everything that we do we have to do within our means. … We also have to make sure that we are targeting increases to ensure that they are being used where they need to,” he said.