Military and Police

LOCKDOWN: Florida State Prisons Temporarily Cancel Visitations

“My suspicions are that loosely knit groups hell-bent on racial domination while serving time are organizing and planning to kick up their heels.”

Since the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) has announced cancellation of all visitations in all of its 148 corrections facilities statewide, citing “security reasons,” we can only guess it stems from the Charlottesville fallout and murmuring of upheaval planned at a time when the climate is rife with dissension and resources are vulnerable to mayhem.

It should come as no shock that any prison reacting to its own intelligence indicates a localized, prison-specific uprising is brewing. A state’s entire chain of prison institutions having aggregate threat-level security-based lockdowns and/or lockouts is a rather unorthodox circumstance. No stranger to prison life and warring factions divided by race, religion, gang colors, philosophy or unwillingness to barter cigs, corrections officers typically have their ears to the wall and call the shots accordingly.

According to a Florida Department of Corrections press release, the reasoning is, “In response to credible intelligence indicating that small groups of inmates at several institutions may attempt to disrupt FDC operations and impact safety and security, FDC has, in an abundance of caution and in the best interest of staff, inmate and public safety, cancelled all visitation statewide. FDC looks forward to resuming normal visitation as soon as possible.”

The name of the game in a prison setting is largely preemptive striking. Given criminals are corralled, the need to locate them is already accomplished. It is what prison guards do during that period of incarceration that denotes safety and security for all within its confines.

My suspicions are that loosely knit groups hell-bent on racial domination while serving time are organizing and planning to kick up their heels, similar to what transpired in Charlottesville on August 12, 2017.

While the aforementioned presumptive reason is not conclusive, a conventional aspect is present. Inmates confined to the same industrious, mundane lifestyle by virtue of their poor decisions and horrendous actions are witnessing unprecedented allowances, not only by the government, but sadly, by some police forces leashed by “leadership,” in effect doing nothing during the melees.

As the largest agency under the Florida government umbrella, the DOC houses approximately 98,000 inmates and supervises nearly 167,000 people on “community control” statuses.

I don’t advocate for such constructs, but I do see how brainstorming with plenty of pent-up yearnings somehow comes to life from what likely appears to be a revolution of significant proportion.

One major catalyst for canceling visitation is that not only does having extra bodies around create more responsibility for corrections personnel, but those same “visitors” have a propensity to enter contraband into prison environments, and that would enable the bloodshed intelligence officers are likely gleaning from their sources for which they are erring with “an abundance of caution.”

By the Numbers

As the largest agency under the Florida government umbrella, the DOC houses approximately 98,000 inmates and supervises nearly 167,000 people on “community control” statuses. As state peace officers, 22,000 corrections, probation and parole officers oversee a quarter-million convicted felons throughout the Sunshine State.

Florida’s corrections system is billed as the third largest in the nation and operates on a $2.4 billion budget.

Given its top billing in terms of size, Florida DOC operates 50 major prison sites, 17 annex buildings, seven private facilities contracted out to private entities overseen by the Florida Department of Management Services, 35 work camps, three re-entry centers, and 19 work-release operations run by an array of private inmate service companies.

Approximately 17,600 of DOC’s overall work force are certified correctional officers or probation officers.

Ordinarily, Florida DOC cancels visitations when one of Florida’s infamous hurricanes reaches shoreline and rolls through the terrain. The last such circumstances resulting in cancelling prison visitations was Tropical Storm Karen in 2013; the panhandle prisons and facilities were battened down for a spell.

Since there is no such weather forecast for the next few days in Florida, it appears human-made turmoil is the basis for keeping civilians out of harm’s way.

Governor Scott

Florida Governor Rick Scott was in the news today with coverage of him flying to New Jersey to meet with President Donald Trump at a golf club. Would Governor Scott have been privy to the Florida DOC’s statewide prison visitation freeze?

Of course.

Is it possible that some discussion was had between the two, particularly regarding the security reasons for forestalling family visits at Florida prisons?

You betcha.

Could it have something to do with Charlottesville, all the condemnation of Pres. Trump, as well as dislodging of statues all across America?

That may not be the only reason but definitely a viable one.

Makes one wonder if any statues are present on the premises of any of Florida’s penal institutions that “visitors” may have designs on defacing, destroying or dislodging. With the way governments are allowing the removal of historical connotation in the past few days, bravado is high.

Stephen Owsinski

Stephen Owsinski is a Senior OpsLens Contributor and retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is currently a researcher and writer. Follow Stephen on Twitter @uniformblue.

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