L-R front: Ricky Dixon, Deputy Asst. Sec. of Institutions; Agnes Fury, Tallahassee; Bonnie Barnes, Orlando; Kim Southerland, Deputy Asst. Sec. of Re-entry; Dr. Amando Aluart, Miami; Henry Brown, Miami.
On September 30, 2013, the Inmate Voice Focus Group team leaders met with the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) Administrative Team and addressed issues relevant to inmates and their families. Those issues included an arrangement at visitation to seat family members closer together, notifying inmates when deposits are made into their inmate trust accounts, permission to call home when an inmate is being confined, attorney/client privilege honored appropriately when an inmate is on a call with his/her legal representative and the installation of cameras at Jefferson C.I. (H-dorm) and Columbia C.I. (Sally Court) for security purposes.
Jewie Tryon, who was unable to attend, collected in excess of 250 signatures from families concerned about the stringent seating arrangements enforced at visitation. In an effort to strengthen the priceless bond between a child and his/her incarcerated parent, FDOC has notified all institutions that children will be allowed to sit next to that parent at visitation, eliminating the space that may cause a child to question their parent’s love and affection. Wardens still retain discretion related to seating arrangements of others, based on physical characteristics of the visiting parks, historical issues related to visitation at their assigned facility, etc. In addition, FDOC has partnered with Sesame Street around Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration, a new resource which targets the 64,475 children that have a parent in prison and helps them cope with the reality of incarceration (http://www.dc.state.fl.us/oth/children/).
Currently, when money is sent to an inmate’s trust account, whether on-line or by money order, the recipient does not receive notification. That leaves many of them unaware that they have money in their account, especially those who are not expecting it. And this forces inmates inquiring about their balance to check it at the commissary window which in turn lengthens the lines, causing frustration and discord, especially to those who have money but are positioned at the end of the line without enough time left to spend it. And once they find out those people holding up the line have negative balances, everybody has an attitude. A word to the wise – a speedy resolution in this matter would double as a step toward preventing a safety breach.
FDOC welcomes Faith Based, Community and Individual involvement. Anyone willing to step up and offer training or an educational program that will benefit ‘returning citizens’ is encouraged to get involved. FDOC’s Transition from Prison to Community Initiative (TPCI) represents the best thinking and evidence about how to manage transition and reentry successfully for community safety and reduced victimization and recidivism (http://www.dc.state.fl.us/reentry/tpci.shtml).
One obstacle upon release from prison is not having proper ID. Not only does this stand in the way of employment but it may also take upward to 3 months to obtain. However, FDOC is taking the initiative to ensure that every releasee crosses the threshold to freedom with ID in hand. The Tallahassee Team is working diligently to give FDOC a new make over, however, prominent flaws remain, specifically abuses by officers and, less frequently, inmates. Although a tough topic to raise, this was laid on the table and remains a work in progress. The Groups will continue to document and report alleged lethal and non-lethal assaults, alleged perpetrators and victims as we receive them and will support any and all efforts to weed out the bad apples standing in the way of completing FDOC’s systemic make over.
Subsequent to our meeting, the Department directed all institutions to allow inmates who are being sent to confinement to place a call home, standardizing this regulation at all institutions.
Chapter 33-601.733 “Visiting – Special Status Inmates,” requires the following:
(2) Upon placement in a special classification status where visiting privileges are prohibited or restricted, the warden shall ensure:
(a) That inmates are provided the opportunity, at the inmates’ expense, to notify at least three approved visitors of the prohibition or restriction before the next scheduled visiting day if the situation permits the inmate to do so, or
(b) That staff makes visitor notifications by phone if the inmate is unable to make them.
The Inmate Voice Focus Groups sincerely appreciate the Department’s willingness to meet and discuss the ‘good’ and the ‘not so good’ and eagerly anticipate a continued positive, productive and mutually beneficial relationship.