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Scott's transition team trashes prison agency and police union

Gov.-elect Rick Scott's law and order transition team slams the police unions and the state's PRIDE program in a report on the Department of Corrections released today. The introduction to the report calls the DOC "broken" and "lacking leadership, vision and courage." The committee suggests a top to bottom review of the corrections and criminal justice system, as recommended by Florida TaxWatch, and proposes decentralizing the agency to move authority down to the regional level. The review team says "individuals in certain areas far exceeded the parameters of their jobs" and many have been promoted from within "to jobs for which they are not nearly qualified." Ultimately, the team concluded: "Most failure is blamed on two to three people in leadership."

As for the Police Benevolent Association, the committee said the contracts with the PBA "encourage stagnation" and allow officers to be promoted based on tenure rather than performance, education and training. That means officers are promoted even if they haven't "accepted the modified mission statement of corrections which now includes successful reentry of the offenders into their community." The contract with the PBA expires in June, and "needs immediate attention," concluded the committee.

The law and order team's report also lays into PRIDE, a nonprofit authorized by the legislature to manage prison industries. The report says PRIDE fails at accomplishing its mission of training inmates so they can get jobs after their release from prison. To prove the point, the team notes that only 1.6 percent of Florida's prisoners have completed PRIDE training. That's dismal compared to states such as Kansas, where in 2007 nearly 12 percent of prisoners worked in prison industries, or South Carolina, where 9.55 percent of prisoners completed training. The report goes on to note that 16 percent of the inmates working for PRIDE are serving life sentences and 28 percent have to serve 10 more years before being released. That means that many of the inmates working for PRIDE aren't about to join the workforce any time soon. The transition team recommends forbidding PRIDE from hiring any workers with life sentences or any worker with more than five years remaining behind bars. Also noted in the report: PRIDE pays its president and its two lobbyists more than $521,000, plus expenses and entertainment. The report suggests putting out the PRIDE contract for a national competitive bid.

Other recommendations in the report: Give judges more leeway in sentencing, stop borrowing to pay for prisons, and open "mission-focused" prisons built around substance abuse programs, literacy and vocational training.

-- Janet Zink