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Governor DeSantis offers $5,000 bonuses for corrections officers amid staffing crisis

Nearly 30 percent of jobs currently vacant
Florida correctional officer faces murder charge in death of inmate
Posted at 5:10 PM, Nov 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-18 08:59:47-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Department of Corrections will be giving bigger bonuses to try to hire new corrections officers at prisons statewide.

Governor Ron DeSantis announced that the D.O.C. will be offering sign-on bonuses of up to $5,000 to address a critical shortage of corrections officers.

“This year, we have prioritized initiatives to recruit and reward high-quality officers, especially corrections officers, and these new bonuses, effective immediately, will help support public safety positions within the Florida Department of Corrections,” DeSantis was quoted as saying in a press release sent by his office Wednesday.

Florida Department of Correction bonus infographic

Prisons have a 30 percent officer vacancy rate

Currently, the state has about a 30 percent vacancy rate, reporting about 5,500 vacancies among 18,000 security jobs. The state is offering $3,000 dollar bonuses for all new corrections officers.

Applicants can get an additional $1,000 to work at facilities that are considered “high vacancy institutions” and they qualify for an additional $1,000 if they are already certified corrections officers.

The Florida Department of Corrections will also give all current corrections officers a $1,500 bonus in December and will raise starting salaries next year by 16 percent.

Huge staffing shortages potentially put inmates, officers, and the public in danger

Currently, staffing is so short that one corrections officer may guard up to 250 inmates alone at some prisons.

The Florida Department of Corrections paid more than $103 Million in overtime in the last fiscal year because the shortage forced so many officers to work mandatory overtime.

“Many of our corrections officers are working double shifts. They’re working 12, 16-hour shifts then working the next day another 16-hour shift,” said Florida Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg). “It’s putting officers’ lives at risk at this juncture because there aren’t enough corrections officers to ensure the safety of other corrections officers."

The bonuses are a good start

Jim Baiardi is Director of Operations for Corrections of the Florida Police Benevolent Association. He said the bonuses are a good start when it comes to alleviating the safety issues the understaffing has caused.

Jim Baiardi
Jim Baiardi, Director of Operations for Corrections of the Florida Police Benevolent Association

“Proper staffing in a prison is critical to its operation. I think it’s critical to the safety of the officers, the inmates, and the public as a whole. And I think that this is the right step to solve this problem, but I think more needs to be done,” Baiardi said.

The I-Team is taking a comprehensive look at issues within Florida’s Department of Corrections with our series Crisis in Corrections. Our initial reports examined the staffing shortage and issues with medical care in D.O.C. facilities.

Upcoming reports will focus on contraband making its way into facilities, the effect of facility closures of Florida’s rural communities, and potential solutions for these problems.

If you have a story you’d like the I-Team to investigate, email us at adam@abcactionnews.com