Groups oppose visitation cuts at Florida state prisons

Posted at 3:03 AM, Apr 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-04 05:23:10-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - Several groups and families are opposing plans to cut visitation at Florida's 50 state prisons from eight days a month to two.

The proposed change will go into effect at an undetermined date.

Groups opposing the change will hold a news conference this Tuesday morning at the headquarters of the Florida Department of Corrections.

"As a collective, we believe that reduction in visitation is inhumane and encourages recidivism rather than reduces it," the groups said in a news release.

Prison officials say they are decreasing visitation to curtail the smuggling of drugs and cellphones and other contraband into the facilities as they face funding and staffing constraints.

The officials say the contraband threatens the security of the facilities and the safety of both staff and inmates.

The FDOC has scheduled a public hearing on visitation to be held from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Tuesday. The groups opposing the change are to hold a news conference immediately afterward. 

"In the press conference and in testimony at the hearing we will provide evidence that visitations cannot and will not reduce contraband in the Florida prison system because over 90% of the contraband comes in the FDOC staff," the groups said in a news release.

Prison staff and visitors have been found in possession of contraband. 

The groups said that the visitations cuts will cause substantial loss of revenue to individual prisons and the tourist industry in surrounding cities and towns. Additionally, the groups said that the answer to saving money for FDOC is to decrease incarceration rates.

Ricky D. Dixon, the deputy secretary of Institutions, said the new visitation schedule would provide for a more orderly and efficient visitor screening process. 

"In spite of our diligent efforts, we are experiencing a vast increaase in the amount of contraband being introduced into correctional facilities satewide, which is exacerbated by current staffing shortages," he said on March 14, 2018. 

The groups include Florida’s Campaign for Prison Reform, Fight Toxic Prisons, Forgotten Majority and Florida Cares in addition to family members and faith and civil rights leaders.