Florida Prison Reform Scuttled As Lawmakers Head Home

April 29, 2015

A push to reform the state’s embattled prisons agency was one of the casualties of the House’s early termination of the legislative session Tuesday, but Senate leaders aren’t dropping the issue.

Senate President Andy Gardiner said his chamber won’t take up a House prisons measure because it lacks an oversight commission included in a Senate plan (SB 7020). But Gardiner said he will dispatch his own committee to investigate problems in the corrections system that prompted lawmakers to propose the overhaul.

“We will put our corrections committee on the road within a couple of weeks and they will go and do their own investigations. I can subpoena people. We’re not done with that,” Gardiner, R-Orlando, told reporters late Tuesday afternoon. “It’s unfortunate that the House did what they did. Usually these last three days is when you’re negotiating. They just walked away.”

Senate Criminal Justice Chairman Greg Evers, R-Baker, and Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, had been in talks with House leaders about the prison reforms as late as Tuesday morning. The House measure, passed last week, lacked the Senate’s proposed independent, governor-appointed commission that would have taken over investigations of prison wrongdoing now handled by the Department of Corrections’ inspector general.

The House had floated a compromise that would have created a joint select committee to oversee the prisons. But House Speaker Steve Crisafulli’s decision to shut down his chamber three days before the scheduled end of the session put an end to prison-reform talks.

“We’re not taking up the House bill. There’s no oversight to it. The agreement that we had for oversight did not come through. So at this point that bill is dead,” said Evers, whose district includes three prisons and who made several surprise visits to institutions throughout the state.

Lawmakers began exploring the prison overhaul in response to widespread reports about problems and abuse in the corrections system. Those reports have included allegations about cover-ups involving inmate deaths, complaints from inspectors who say they faced retaliation for exposing cover-ups and complaints from guards and others about a culture of intimidation against whistleblowers.

Earlier this month, an FBI investigation resulted in the arrest of two prison guards and one former prison worker who were allegedly members of the Ku Klux Klan. They were accused of plotting to kill an ex-inmate after he was released from a rural North Florida institution.

Evers said he believed lawmakers could have reached consensus on the measure if the House had remained in session longer.

“It’s a disappointment to me for the people of the state of Florida. I felt reasonably sure we would have ironed out the differences. Absolutely,” Evers said.

by Dara Kam, The News Service of Florida


3 Responses to “Florida Prison Reform Scuttled As Lawmakers Head Home”

  1. David Huie Green on May 1st, 2015 1:12 pm

    “The House and the Senate are the ones that need oversight. They are already underworked and overpaid, getting very little done in the short time they are in session.”

    The voters are the oversight.

    Per Mark Twain:
    “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.”

    Or the bumper sticker:
    “Be grateful that you don’t get all the government you pay for.”

    Having said that, there is much more to representative government than sitting in session, making speeches, debating and voting.

    David for representatives who listen and think

  2. 99% on April 30th, 2015 8:45 am

    About 99% of all workers that leave work 3 days early don’t get paid for those 3 days… I’d say 99.9% of workers that don’t do crap at work loses their job!!!
    We need reform on our Local, State, and Federal Government.

  3. GB on April 30th, 2015 6:49 am

    The House and the Senate are the ones that need oversight. They are already underworked and overpaid, getting very little done in the short time they are in session. So they decide to take an extra three days off – must be nice. It’s not like they didn’t have things that need to be done. I my house we call that being lazy. I’m suprised they didn’t vote themselves a pay raise for their efforts. Good job Tallahassee.