Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Point of View; Florida Prison Staff Needs Help

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Point of View; Florida Prison Staff Needs Help

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Ryan

Gov. Rick Scott is asking that $46 million be included in the 2017-2018 state budget for pay increases for correctional and probation officers.

He is calling for an 8.5 percent increase for starting certified corrections officers, a 10-percent increase for sergeants, lieutenants and captains, $1,000 hiring bonuses at designated short-staffed prisons and bonuses for those working at prisons having mental health units.

Is Scott sincere, or is this just political talk?

Correctional officers, like most other state workers, have had one raise in the last 10 years. With a starting salary under $31,000, they are the payroll basement for front-line state law enforcement. I recall being surprised to discover that a captain's annual salary was only $46,000.

In an 18-year state career, I've worked as a registered nurse at two state correctional facilities, Florida State Prison in Raiford and Charlotte Correctional Institution in Punta Gorda.

A different officer in charge put stress and safety issues in perspective when I asked about Florida State Prison's full-court indoor gymnasium that was not being used on weekends.

"We used to show movies in the gym for the inmates, but we had to stop doing that," he said. "We really don't have the staff. And when we turned the lights down, we were just having too many murders."

I didn't think he was kidding.

I worked alongside a couple of nurses who were on duty at Columbia Correctional Institution in Lake City when an inmate used a shank to murder a correctional officer in 2012.

Most of the details about incidents in prisons never reach the general public. Media coverage tends to be missing key information and tends to be negative.

I recall a news story about a female inmate that read as if she had been deprived of water and blankets. It read as if she had been tortured.

When one works at a prison, one learns quickly that water needs to be shut off when inmates flood their cells and the quad. …

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