Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis activated the state National Guard in a bid to aid corrections officers amid staffing issues at prisons.
The Department of Corrections “is authorized to employ over 20,000 correctional and correctional probation officers, almost a quarter of all state employees,” the governor’s order stated, noting there is currently a “severe shortage” of officers that “threatens the safety” of inmates, officers, and the public.
The state’s corrections agency said that National Guard members will be deployed as a supplemental measure to security posts at some institutions. They will be supervised by respective prison wardens or similar staff, the agency said.
“We think, as we continue to hire and reduce the stress on the compounds, the existing officers are going to want to stay because they’re not going to work that amount of overtime they’re currently working,” Department of Corrections Chief Financial Officer Mark Tallent told WPTV. “They’re going to have a better family life, be able to get out of the institution more. We definitely think we’re trending in the right direction.”
The Guard members will not be expected to directly supervise inmates, according to DeSantis’s order.
“Members of the Guard have the training and capability to assist Florida’s correctional officers with certain duties, such as manning guard towers, perimeter patrols, and control stations, which will allow the correctional officers to concentrate on directly supervising and caring for inmates,” the Republican governor’s order said.
Earlier this year, DeSantis approved a pay increase to recruit and retrain current corrections officers.
Florida National Guard Lt. Col. Peter Jennison told the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper that he expects all the Guard members who are assigned would volunteer for the prison assignments.
“We think we’ll be able to right-size ourselves by the end of the fiscal year,” said Tallent, adding that as many as 300 National Guard members would be deployed.