The Phoenix Flyer

Inmate population in Florida prisons expected to grow to more than 88,000 next year

By: - February 22, 2023 6:31 pm

Barbed wire. Credit: Alex Potemkin, Getty Images.

The number of inmates in Florida correctional facilities has fluctuated significantly in recent years, but the figure is expected to grow by more than 4,000 in the next couple of years — which will require more staffing.

That’s according to Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Ricky Dixon, who spoke Wednesday before a key Senate appropriations committee.

He presented a slide showing the department had 82,124 inmates at the end of last year, but projections show 88,467 inmates by 2024, according to a Criminal Justice Estimating Conference report.

Dixon said there’s no immediate need for more infrastructure to accommodate the increase, but the department will need to hire at least 400 more employees to handle the additional inmates.

The prison population in Florida’s correction facilities went from 96,253 in 2018 to a low of 80,895 in 2021, according to Dixon’s data. He was praised by a committee member for that reduction, but Dixon said he took no credit for it. “That was just the reality of the pandemic, and the court system and the dynamics that we went through at that time,” he said.

Hiring enough corrections officers had been a major problem due to low pay at the end of the last decade, but the state has boosted funding for new officers significantly in the past year. Gov. Ron DeSantis announced earlier this month a new plan that will increase the starting pay from $20 to $23 per hour for correctional officers, inspectors and probation officers. That comes a year after the Florida Legislature approved a funding request by DeSantis to raise the pay from $18 to $20.

“In 2022, our pay was increased to $20 an hour and we’re now hiring and retaining more staffing than we’re losing,” Dixon told the committee. “We’re increasing our correctional officer class by more than 1,100 over the past several months.”

Dixon also told lawmakers that a lack of correction officers in some facilities has led to an excess of overtime pay.

“We spent over $100 million in overtime last year,” Dixon said.

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Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.