Latest Executive Order To Reform Florida Prisons Has Mental Health Focus

Jul 9, 2015

Credit Florida Department of Corrections

Governor Rick Scott has issued an additional executive order looking to reform Florida’s troubled Department of Corrections.

In his latest Executive Order, Scott called for two independent audits of the prison system to be done. DOC spokesman McKinley Lewis says they’ll be completed sometime in the fall.

“It calls for increased oversight and accountability for the department through independent audits of our agencies operations, and those will be done by the National Institute of Corrections and the Association of State Correctional Administrators,” said Lewis.

“He’s [Scott is] calling it an improved institutional oversight, and that’s the not the same as an oversight committee or commission that’s a permanent standing body,” said George Mallinckrodt. “So, Section 1 is positive but I don’t think it goes far enough.”

Mallinckrodt, a former DOC mental health counselor, says he is hopeful about the part of the order directing the prison agency to work with other state agencies on mental health issues. There’s also the change making two facilities test cases for doing more to help mentally ill inmates as well as those in the general population.

“And, then perhaps, lessons can be learned from this exercise,” he added. “And, you know, if we can prove that updating an institution will reduce recidivism and result in the humane treatment of the mentally ill, then that’s a good thing.”

And, Lewis says there’s a reason Lake and Liberty correctional institutions were chosen.

“…because Lake has a mental health facility within that institution,” said Lewis. “And, then, Liberty is extremely similar to a lot of other institutions that we have. And, so by modeling, this prototype at Liberty, it will give us a pretty good vision as to how it will work at other institutions because we have a lot of other facilities that are structurally very similar to Liberty.”

Meanwhile, Florida lawmakers failed to pass a comprehensive package last year to reform the prison system plagued by inmate deaths and allegations of abuse by prison guards. So, Governor Scott issued an Executive Order in May that included some of its elements. It allows for tracking use of force incidents, surprise inspections, and policies to protect DOC employees reporting wrongdoing from retaliation.

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