Our Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach Gardens criminal defense lawyers are pleased that, yesterday, the Florida Senate (nearly unanimously) passed a new bill aimed at reducing beatings and corruption in our state’s deeply flawed and scandalous prison system.
The bill, which passed on a resounding 36-1 vote, will alter current state law in two significant ways: first, it will remove the governor’s right to appoint a corrections secretary; second, it will allow for the creation of a commission with the ability to independently investigate reports of corruption and death in Florida prisons. Unfortunately, such reports have increased in recent months, as we’ve discussed.
As we know, the State of Florida has been taking a lot of heat about the scandals emanating from the prison system. Hopefully, this bill is indicative of forthcoming, positive changes.
As the Miami Herald reported last month, staffers’ testimony to state legislators painted a picture of a corruption-riddled state prison system, full of prisoner abuse (including beatings, deprivations and deaths) and void of proper oversight. According to the report, state officials were ordered to essentially turn a blind eye to the blatant examples of gross corruption they came across, as higher-ups in the state, and the Department of Corrections (DOC) in particular, felt that if the reports came to light, they’d lead to a “black eye” for the DOC. Clearly, that black eye would have been — and now is — well deserved.
As our Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach Gardens criminal defense lawyers at Leifert & Leifert know, one of the most important aspects of this new bill passed yesterday by the Florida Senate is that which stipulates that a proposed corrections secretary now has to receive approval from both the governor and the Cabinet. The functional effect of this is that the governor can no longer unilaterally nominate and appoint a corrections secretary — he needs his Cabinet to agree with his appointment.
The implication of this is that there is going to be more oversight; the governor won’t be able to pick someone who he (or in the future, she) thinks will go along with sweeping corruption charges under the carpet. Now, a potential corrections secretary will need to seek approval from more people; when more people become involved in the process of appointing a corrections secretary, there will be more accountability in the position.
The problems plaguing Florida’s prison system are not just concerning to residents of the Sunshine State; indeed, Florida’s prison system is one of the largest in the country, housing more than 100,000 inmates. As our Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach Gardens criminal defense lawyers wrote back in January, Florida’s prison “industry” is the 3rd largest in the nation, commanding a budget of $2.4 billion, which is more than the annual budget of some small countries.
One of the biggest problems with our prison system, as we noted two and a half months ago, is that about 12.5% of the state prisons in Florida are run by private, for-profit companies. This fact alone helps to explain why scandal is pushed under the rug: corporations, who depend on consumer approval and investor satisfaction, don’t like disclosing reports of misconduct.
Hopefully, the changes made by this law lead to a reduction in corruption and violent abuses in our prison system. If you have any question about this or any other criminal defense issue, or if you have been arrested for or charged with a crime in Palm Beach, Broward or Miami-Dade County, please contact our criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert by calling 1-888-5-DEFEND (1-888-533-3363) to schedule a free consultation. We look forward to assisting you.