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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


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Bob Sloan

I have been criticizing PRIDE for 7 years for some of the very reasons mentioned in this article. I work as a Prison Industry Consultant out of Indiana. Many of my complaints have been compiled into an ongoing F.B.I. and Bureau of Justice Assistance investigations into their business practices. The BJA report is due to be released in early January 2011.

The use of lifers in the training program resulted in the death of FDOC Officer Donna Fitzgerald in 2008. She was killed by a PRIDE inmate working at PRIDE's Tomoka CI Heavy Equipment facility. The inmate, Enoch Hall was serving two life sentences at the time of the murder - with a federal sentence to serve if ever released. Hall had been removed from the training program on two or more occasions for disciplinary problems. DR's prohibit inmates from going back to work for PRIDE, but the industry manager kept asking the FDOC to put him back in PRIDE as he was a welder and purportedly needed for production.

I personally met with PRIDE President, Jack Edgemon and the entire Board of Directors on several occasions in 2006, 2008. At those meetings I was allowed to give a presentation. One of the critical issues I addressed was the use of inmates sentenced to long prison terms having access to "Class A" tools they could use as weapons or to manufacture escape paraphernalia. On the day of Ms. Fitzgerald's murder I was on the phone with Secretary McNeil discussing this very issue of using lifers to increase production for PRIDE and thus profits.

An article I wrote about PRIDE can be found at: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/11/23/921799/-InsourcingViolations-under-PIECP. It is part of an ongoing series found on Daily Kos.

PRIDE also deducts 40% from the wages of workers for "room and board" expenses under 18 USC 1761(c)(2). Under that federal law the money is to go to the FDOC to offset the costs of incarceration paid for by the Florida taxpayers. Florida statute 946.522 enacted in 1999 through lobbying by PRIDE, diverts that money back to PRIDE. To date this has resulted in $3.8 million dollars of money earmarked to reimburse taxpayers going back to PRIDE to offset their operating expenses.

The current manner in which PRIDE is operating is profit driven and corrupt. From 1999 through 2005 PRIDE "stole" 5 private sector businesses that partnered with them to train inmates. PRIDE kept all materials, equipment and proprietary technology and continued to run the industries as their own. See the above article for more.

Bob Sloan
Prison Industry Consultant
Indianapolis, In. 46226

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