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House takes Senate prison reform and strips out independent oversight and penalties

Prisons Miami HeraldA 51-page prison reform bill intended to weed out abuse and corruption at the state’s troubled corrections agency has been whittled down to a modest 12 pages in the House amid quiet opposition from Gov. Rick Scott’s administration.

The House proposal, which will get a hearing on Tuesday, abandons a Senate plan (SB 7020) to require the agency to be accountable to an oversight board.

The full Senate will debate its proposal on Tuesday as well.

House leaders intend to address the state’s prison problems, documented in a series of stories in the Miami Herald, by increasing staffing levels and providing more building repairs, as has been requested by DOC Secretary Julie Jones.

“Ultimately, the governor is accountable for the actions of the secretary and the secretary is accountable for the success of the department,’’ said Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee, which will hear the bill, PCB CRJS 15-07, on Tuesday. “If the department is a failure, they need to search for new leadership.”

Trujillo said that while he agrees an oversight board “could be productive,” House leadership believes it could also create “a layer of bureaucracy” and so the House bill “is a work in progress.” Story here.