Staffing shortages hit Florida prisons as inmate populations are expected to grow

ORLANDO, Fla. — Staffing shortages at some Florida state prisons have leaders considering whether or not to bring Florida National Guard members in to help.


A lack of staffing isn’t the only issue Florida’s prisons are facing. A new report says more inmates are also expected to end up in Florida state prisons each year for the next six years.

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The projected increase is attributed in part to a backlog in the courts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Joe Rojas, who formerly worked in a state facility and is now at a federal facility in Florida, says he’s not surprised by the numbers.

“The pay, the type of environment…It’s a struggle,” Rojas said.

This week, a legislative panel will decide whether or not to bring in Florida National Guard members to help state prisons that are struggling with staffing issues.

Rojas says that’s also not a surprise. He says the same environment and compensation challenges facing Florida state prisons are problems where he works at the Federal Correctional Complex in Coleman. Rojas says right now, they’re short 100 correctional officers.

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“When you don’t have the staff, and the inmates see that, they’re going to take advantage of that,” Rojas said. You’re going to have assaults. You’re going to have predatory inmates attack weaker inmates, or you’re going to have the predatory inmates attack staff.”

When asked what’s being done about the staffing numbers and expected rise in inmates, a representative with the Florida Department of Corrections said in an email that “the Freedom First Budget approved by Governor DeSantis this year means record pay increases will address officer vacancies on a temporary, short-term basis.”

They also noted that the Florida Sheriff’s Association supports the request by the Department of Corrections to activate the National Guard to assist with “short-term staffing” at some prisons.

Rojas says there needs to be a major, permanent change at both the state and federal level.

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“They need to staff our prisons properly, and they haven’t done that in quite a bit,” Rojas said. “You get more people retiring and more people leaving, and they’re not backfilling those jobs, so what you’re going to have is a serious security issue.”

The legislative panel is expected to meet Friday.

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