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Union: North Florida Prison Riots Speak To Long-Standing Issue

MGN Online

Columbia Correctional Institution is returning to normal operations after a lockdown. It’s among several North Florida correctional facilities that experienced prison riots over the last week. But, the head of the union that represents thousands of Florida’s corrections officers says the uprisings speak to a long-standing issue within the Florida Department of Corrections.

In a statement, Florida Prison Chief Julie Jones says she’s proud of her team’s response to “quickly and effectively” quell the disturbances. And, Teamsters Union President Kim Schultz feels the same way.

“Thank you to all of our corrections officers because they really did a great job and they shined,” said Schultz. “I mean they trained for these things and they have special units that came in and quelled the riots.”

The riots—initially thought to be part of a national strike protesting abuse—may actually stem from other issues, according to prison officials. Schultz says being short staff may be an underlying cause.

“Their recreation, going to canteen, maybe even medical, going to their program…whatever it is that requires movement—meaning a corrections officer takes you—gets limited when you’re short staffed,” she added.

So, Schultz is now renewing her push to get the Governor and the Legislature to call for a special session to deal with understaffing levels and overworked staff.

“We ask that this be done in July and it wasn’t,” she continued. “I’ve now updated the letter, included the fact that we’ve had multiple riots. Franklin, actually, has had four riots since, I believe January. And, now, we have these other institutions rising up.”

The latest riots occurred at Columbia, Holmes, Gulf Annex, Mayo, and Jackson correctional institutions. A prison agency spokeswoman says while some inmates were injured, there were no staff injuries.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.