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Florida National Guard to assist state prisons amid staff shortage

There reportedly remain about 4,000 openings across the Department of Corrections.
Credit: AP Photo/David Goldman
A guard tower stands behind the entrance to the Reception and Medical Center, the state's prison hospital where new inmates are processed, in Lake Butler, Fla., Friday, April 16, 2021.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis activated the Florida National Guard to address a "severe" shortage of correctional officers, according to an executive order signed Sept. 9.

In the order, the governor says the shortage affecting the Department of Corrections' operations has resulted in the temporary closure of 176 inmate dorms and the suspension of 431 supervised work squads. 

Activating members of the guard "who are most appropriate" to respond to facilities will help alleviate overtime and give some relief to current correctional officers, the order reads. 

It remains in effect now through the next nine months or until the department no longer needs members' support. More than $31 million is allocated for the plan.

Duties exclude "any direct supervision of inmates except where such supervision occurs as a normal part of manning control stations or when required in an emergency pertaining to safety and security."

The Tallahassee Democrat reported the Joint Legislative Budget Commission voted to approve the move. Some several House Democrats, however, said the plan was a short-term Band-Aid — there remain 4,000 openings at correctional facilities statewide, corrections department chief financial officer Mark Tallent said in the report.

The shortage continues despite DeSantis' budget increasing the minimum base pay to $20 per hour and bonus checks for law enforcement officers.

"Hopefully what we’re doing today will give time for us to continue to [address the shortage]," said state Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, who is the budget commission's alternating chair, according to the newspaper.

The Florida Department of Corrections has 128 facilities statewide, according to its website.

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