DeSantis sends National Guard to help with Florida prison staffing shortage

Federal prisons nationwide are facing severe staffing issues as well.

September 15, 2022, 11:11 AM

Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis has activated the Florida National Guard to address staffing shortages at the state's correctional facilities.

"Members of the Guard have the training and capability to assist Florida's correctional officers with certain duties, such as manning guard towers, perimeter patrols, and control stations, which will allow the correctional officers to concentrate on directly supervising and caring for inmates," an executive order DeSantis signed Friday said.

The order said the Guard will remain in Florida correctional facilities on a "short term basis" and notes current hiring efforts have "shown early signs of success."

Florida's staffing shortage has resulted in the "temporary closure of 176 inmate dorms and suspension of 431 supervised work squads," it said. "This shortage threatens the safety of officers, inmates, and the public."

The Florida Department of Corrections is authorized to hire 20,000 correction and probation officers -- nearly one quarter of the state's employees.

PHOTO: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at an event in Tampa, Fla., Aug. 24, 2022.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at an event in Tampa, Fla., Aug. 24, 2022.
Octavio Jones/Reuters, FILE

There is a severe staffing shortage at federal prisons nationwide as well.

"The unprecedented and remarkable steps taken by Governor DeSantis in sending the National Guard to assist the Florida Department of Corrections is indicative of a profession in crisis with nationwide public safety implications," said Shane Fausey, president of the National Council of Prison Locals 33, the union that represents federal corrections officers around the country.

"The Bureau of Prisons, much like our state and county counterparts, have seen an ominous exodus from our agency, aggravated by serious difficulties in recruiting and hiring," he said.

Fausey said the Bureau of Prisons saw a departure of nearly 3,000 correctional officers and employees in 2021, and is on course to lose an additional 3,000 by the end of 2022, nearly 20% of its total workforce.

The BOP said in a statement to ABC News that the agency is "committed to ensuring appropriate staffing levels to maintain the safety and security of staff, inmates, and its institutions. The BOP continues to take concrete steps to increase staffing. This includes hiring Correctional Officers up to 100% primarily through external hiring efforts, filling all First Step Act (FSA) dedicated-funded positions, and backfilling projected separations in order to maintain staffing levels."

"The BOP is also focusing on training in order to retain current staffing levels. Additionally, we are currently offering a recruitment incentive to any current staff member for each applicant who is referred and successfully enters on duty to the BOP," the statement continued, referring to its website for more details on staffing.

"I implore executive action by the White House administration, coupled with emergency actions of Congress, be implemented immediately to address our inadequate pay bands, crippling staffing shortages, and incentivize the retention of our most experienced officers and employees," Fausey said.