Rick Scott Legislature and Prisons

First Term

When Rick Scott took over as Florida’s governor in 2010, he touted a “7-7-7 plan” to reduce state spending on prisons by over $1 billion. His plan outlined a number of areas which could be reformed to save taxpayers money and reduce recidivism rates.

These ways included:

  • An inmate food-growing program and overhaul of food delivery services
  • renegotiate health care contracts, salaries and shift towards privatization
  • the elimination of 1,690 Department of Corrections jobs, the closure of two prisons and transferring 1,500 inmates to private facilities

What happened?.

  • Scott delivered on his promise to expand the edible crops program to reduce prison costs. At the end of his first term as governor, the weight of crops produced by inmates grew by $1.5 million, according to Politifact, and the state saved $3.5 million.
  • Scott led the initiative to privatize the health care system in the prison system, which cut about 2,300 prison employees and saves taxpayers a projected $14 million per year.
  • All combined, Scott’s efforts saved the state $244 million by the end of 2013, a number the governor pointed to as proof of success, despite the billion-dollar promise before his election.

Second Term

When Scott began his second term as governor of Florida, his approach to prison spending took a 180 degree turn. In 2015, Scott proposed a $51.5 million increase in the prison budget, including over $15 million to address staff vacancies, $2 million to train new hires and $15 billion to repair damaged and outdated facilities. Julie Jones, head of the Department of Corrections, said hiring new recruits will save money on overtime. In 2016 Scott endorsed an $82 million increase in the Department of Corrections budget, which would add 734 full-time positions. The additional workers would allow the state to shorten shifts from 12 to eight hours for corrections officers. The investments in the workforce came after Scott’s administration was scrutinized for spending a majority of the state’s budget on prison facility repairs rather than improving the quality of life for staff members and prisoners.

While many of Scott’s early actions offered purely financial incentives, such as spending a majority of the state’s budget on prison repairs rather than expanding the understaffed work force, he issued an executive order in 2016 to address the work force and improve quality of life. The order came on the heels of criticism from the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, which said the problems among leadership personal in the prison system made it impossible for the DOC to police itself.

Changes still to be made

Despite the changes, critics say Scott’s bill ignored other problems such as contraband smuggling, intimidation tactics to silence inmates who complain and medical evaluations conducted by for-profit health care providers. The bill also left unaddressed the Senate’s proposal to create an independent oversight committee which provides an independent review of allegations.

View the changes called for by Rick Scott's transition team below

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