State Prison Security Bill Passes Key Committee
By Space Coast Daily // February 17, 2015
TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — The Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, chaired by Senator Greg Evers (R-Baker), today passed Senate Proposed Bill (SPB) 7020, Corrections, comprehensive legislation to improve the safety and security of Florida’s state prisons.
“This bipartisan legislation is the product of weeks of public input, and I am grateful to everyone who played a role in the development of such a comprehensive approach to addressing the challenges facing our prisons,” said Chair Evers. “Safety is our first and foremost concern. We want to make sure our prisons are safe and secure for our correctional officers and the inmates over which they keep watch.”
SPB 7020 expands the Department of Corrections (DOC) security review inspection process to include safety considerations, the identification of blind spots, and the use of audio and video monitoring and requires priority be given to inspecting those institutions with high incidents of use of force on inmates, assaults on employees, and sexual abuse of inmates. The legislation requires a Memorandum of Understanding between the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and DOC regarding external investigations of inmate deaths be written and requires notification to the Legislature.
Additionally, the legislation requires inspector generals to have specialized training in sexual abuse investigations; requires multiple internal ways for inmates to file a grievance; requires the Correctional Medical Authority and DOC to review grievance procedures at each institution; and, requires both entities to post their findings on their websites. Among other requirements, the legislation requires that each institution create and maintain a system to track the use of force incidents and requires use of force reports written by employees to be under oath.
“We also want to make certain that our prisoners have access to the appropriate care if they should become sick or injured during their incarceration,” continued Chair Evers. “This legislation will increase oversight in the delivery of inmate health care, better protect and manage elderly inmates with higher levels of health care needs and increase training for corrections officers to include specialized training for managing inmates who suffer from mental illness.
Under SPB 7020, the frequency of the mental and physical health care surveys conducted by the Correctional Medical Authority would be increased from every three years to every 18 months. The legislation requires the DOC to establish standards of care for the specialized needs of inmates over age 50 and creates a geriatric-based release policy, like many other states operate, by expanding Florida’s conditional medical release program. This would allow the Commission on Offender Review to consider the early release of elderly and infirm inmates who are no longer pose a danger to themselves or others.
The legislation also requires all correctional officer training programs to include specialized training for managing mentally ill inmates and requires correctional officers who have close contact with inmates housed in a mental health treatment facility to complete annual training in crisis intervention.
SPB 7020 increases penalties for employees who willfully neglect or abuse inmates by creating a new third degree felony for DOC employees or employees of a private provider who willfully or by culpable negligence neglect an elderly or disabled inmate. The legislation creates a new second degree felony for DOC employees or employees of a private provider who willfully or by culpable negligence neglect an inmate and in so doing causes great bodily harm.
Prior to passage, SPB 7020 was amended today to add provisions of SB 212 by Senator Bradley which creates an oversight commission and requires the DOC Secretary to be appointed by the Governor with the concurrence of three members of the Cabinet. These provisions would dramatically increase oversight and accountability of the DOC.
For more information on SPB 7020, please visit the Florida Senate online via www.FLSenate.gov.