Florida Department of Corrections

Florida Channel

The privatization of prison health care services in Florida is expected to be fully implemented by mid-October. The effort, projected to save the department millions of dollars, caused thousands of employees to lose their state jobs.

Speaking before a Senate Criminal Justice budget panel Wednesday, Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Mike Crews said the privatization effort is almost done. There’s only one facility left that needs to privatize its prison health care services.

A Florida appeals court has reversed a lower court decision, and has given the Florida Department of Corrections the go-ahead to privatize prison health care services throughout the state. But, one union representing thousands of employees who don’t want to lose their state jobs says the fight may not be over.

Last December, a Circuit Judge essentially backed American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, one of the unions that filed the health care privatization challenge.

Ryan Benk / WFSU-FM

It could take weeks before a Florida appeals court decides whether to allow the Florida Department of Corrections to move forward with privatizing the prison health care services in several Florida regions. It’s all part of a continuing legal battle between the department and unions representing employees who fear they’ll lose their state jobs.

Ryan Benk / WFSU-FM

A three-judge panel heard arguments Tuesday in a legal dispute between the Florida Department of Corrections and its prison health care workers who fear losing their state jobs. It’s the latest after a lower court ruled the department could only privatize prison health care in one region of the state, but must leave two other regions alone.

This week is National Corrections Week, and Gov. Rick Scott took some time away from his “Teacher Pay Raise Victory Tour” to praise Florida’s correctional officers. He’s also reminding them about his efforts to get them higher pay. But, some say the state could do more for Florida’s prison officers.

In a video message, Scott says he’s thankful correctional officers are keeping Florida safe.

The Florida Department of Corrections is aiming to further reduce its budget deficit of $95 million with the help of Governor Rick Scott. But, Scott’s recommendation won’t be enough to cover the department’s entire budget hole. So, the department has started looking at cost saving measures in hopes of reaching one of its main goals.

“What we want to do is when we get to June 30th, our goal is to be at zero,” said Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Mike Crews.

Sascha Cordner / WFSU-FM

About 87 percent of the state’s inmate population is expected to be released back into society, and Florida prison officials say it’s important they continue working with those inmates before they become repeat offenders. The Florida Department of Corrections says it’s already seeing proof of that hard work with a decline in the number of inmates coming back to prison over the years.

“Back in 2002, I made the unfortunate decision to drive under the influence,” said Eric Smallridge.

Florida Department of Corrections

The Florida Department of Corrections has a new Secretary, but he’s not new to the agency. It’s the department’s Second-In-Command Mike Crews, who was recently appointed to his new role by Governor Rick Scott. But, as the third Secretary in less than two years, Crews faces several challenges in leading the nation’s third largest prison system.

As the state continues its battle to privatize the state’s prison health care services, some employees, who are still in limbo, may now have to reapply for their state benefits. About a thousand Florida Department of Corrections employees, who thought their positions would be taken over by a private company, may have prematurely canceled their insurance coverage.

Sascha Cordner / WFSU-FM

Florida Governor Rick Scott named a new person to head the state’s prison system Monday. Florida Department of Corrections Deputy Secretary Mike Crews has moved up to lead the agency, making him the third chief under Scott in less than two years.

With about 30 years of state corrections and law enforcement experience, Crews says he hopes to bring stability and consistency to the department.

The Florida Department of Corrections is preparing to file an appeal, after a Judge ruled privatizing most of the health care services in Florida’s prisons, illegal. The department says the state would face a massive budget deficit, if it complies with the decision. But, some say the department should stop fighting the ruling because of the thousands of prison health care workers unsure about their jobs.

The Florida Department of Corrections is asking state lawmakers for about $20-million to fund what it says are three of its top priorities for the upcoming Legislative Session. The department's Deputy Secretary Mike Crews made the funding requests to a Senate Budget panel for Criminal and Civil Justice issues Thursday.

Among them is an increase in funding to pay for hundreds of new positions at 12 of the state’s prison facilities.

Updated 5:28 p.m.

The Florida Department of Corrections has announced it is appealing the Judge's ruling. Below is a statement from the department's Deputy Secretary Mike Crews:

****UPDATE: Judge has Ruled. Read Story HERE****

The jobs of about the three-thousand correctional employees’ jobs hang in the balance as a Leon Circuit Judge decides whether the state can privatize its prison health care services. The judge must rule on whether a Legislative Budget panel overstepped its authority by approving the plan, even after several attempts to privatize had been struck down by the courts.

A Leon Circuit Judge is now set to decide on a case regarding the privatization of health care services in Florida’s prison system. The Judge says he expects to make his decision soon to determine whether a legislative budget panel overstepped when it gave the Florida Department of Corrections the go-ahead on the privatization effort.

A legal dispute over the privatization of health care services in Florida’s prisons is far from over. A Leon Circuit Judge says he does not have all the information he needs to make a ruling yet. But, his ultimate decision will not only affect thousands of public employees in jeopardy of losing their jobs, it could also become a precedent in deciding what kind of authority a Florida legislative budget panel has in making future budgetary decisions.

Florida’s prison chief is stepping down from his role as the head of one of the nation’s largest prison systems. While Ken Tucker’s official last day is at the end of December, he bid farewell to the Florida Department of Corrections in a video message Wednesday.

With only about 15 months on the job, Tucker is preparing to leave because he’s approaching a mandatory retirement date. In his farewell video, Tucker says he has mixed feelings.

The Florida Department of Corrections is hoping the Florida Legislature will give them back about $11 million that was taken out of its budget when lawmakers planned to privatize about 30 prisons in South Florida. The department made its legislative budget requests for the next fiscal year Wednesday.

When the Republican-led Florida Legislature aimed to privatize about 30 South Florida prisons, they projected it would provide a 7-percent cost savings. Since the effort failed to get off the ground, the Florida Department of Corrections wants the money to be put back in its budget.

A total of 11 correctional employees who work at Union Correctional Institution have now been suspended. That’s after a further probe into an ongoing investigation over the possible use of excessive force on several inmates, including one who died at the facility.

Just days ago, the Florida Department of Corrections suspended five of its correctional officers working at Union Correctional Institution, including the Assistant Warden Nan Jeffcoat.

An inmate death at a north Florida prison has led to the transfer of the prison’s warden and the suspension of five correctional officers. The Florida Department of Corrections has handed an investigation into the issue over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, after claims made that officers may have used, which could have contributed to the inmate death at Union Correctional Institution in Raiford.

And, Department Spokeswoman Ann Howard says preliminary findings show there could be more incidents involving the use of excessive force by correctional officers:

About 3,000 employees could soon be out of a job after the Florida Department of Corrections recently received the funds to privatize its inmate health care services. A Legislative budget panel gave millions of dollars to the department to contract with two private companies. But now a state employee union filed a lawsuit Friday to block the move.

Florida could soon be faced with another union lawsuit over plans to privatize inmate health care services. The move comes after a legislative budget panel Wednesday approved a funding request from the Department of Corrections to help the effort move forward.  The union called that illegal, and says it could now cost about 3,000 state employees their jobs.

A legislative budget panel is scheduled to meet Wednesday to discuss whether to approve a request by the Department of Corrections to pay two private prison companies to take over health care services in Florida’s prisons. But, if the request is approved, a state employee union is poised to take the matter to court.

An effort by the state to privatize Florida’s inmate health care services could still be on hold, even after a Leon Circuit Judge recently rejected a motion to reconsider a case that could have blocked the effort.

In early July, Leon Circuit Judge Kevin Carroll had previously dismissed the case because the budget provision that let the state privatize inmate health care services had already expired.

Sascha Cordner

A part of the state budget that would have privatized health care services in Florida’s prisons has expired, but the Department of Corrections is moving forward with the plan saying they have the authority to do so even without the expired provision. It was challenged in the courts before, but, two unions are calling on a trial judge to weigh in again, before thousands of state employees are out of a job.