By Marianela Toledo | Florida Watchdog
MIAMI — While crime in Florida has been falling steadily since 1993, the incarceration rate has increased more than 40 percent.
MATH DOESN”T WORK: In Florida, the crime rate is down, but the number of people incarcerated is up.
Just a year after announcing it would close nine facilities and consolidate 19 others, Florida Department of Corrections says it now plans to open five new facilities this year.
During the course of three years, Florida has saved taxpayers more than $132 million “through consolidating over 19 facilities, closing those older, antiquated facilities that are inefficient and costly to operate,” according to Gov. Rick Scott’s office.
But now it seems those savings were short lived. Thanks to stiffer penalties and longer prison sentences Florida taxpayers can expect to pay even more to lock away convicted criminals.
FDOC’s current fiscal year budget tops $2.4 billion, up $144 million from the previous year.
Of that budget, $47.7 million will go to providing hot meals and beds to the growing prison population. The rest will be spent on personnel, maintenance and repairs, as well as substance abuse programs.
The Broward Correctional Institution was closed in 2012 due to low occupancy and the high cost of upkeep. Now it sits empty waiting for a buyer. Former prison facilities in Riverview, Vero Beach, Monticello and Raiford also sit idle.
The Gainesville Correctional Institution in Alachua is getting a second chance. Once all the kinks are worked out, it will be used it as a center for homeless people.
Florida Watchdog contacted FDOC about several defunct facilities including Junction Work Camp in Chattahoochee, Caryville Work Camp near Northwest Florida Reception Center in Washington County, Hendry Work Camp in Immokalee, and Levy Forestry Camp in Ocala, but no one has respond to requests for more information.
FDOC plans to build new work camps in Okeechobee, Santa Rosa and Cross City, as well as two re-entry facilities in Baker and Everglades. All will include drug treatment centers and vocational training.
With the exception of security, FDOC says it will outsource most of the prison functions to private firms.