After a ramp up of enforcement that led to thousands of prisoner visitor strip searches beginning last summer, the Florida Department of Corrections will cut visitation days in half, saying it can’t safely facilitate the process.
Since July, Florida corrections officials have implemented a contraband crackdown that has weighed heavily on inmates’ girlfriends, wives and mothers during visitation. Beginning next month, the department will cut those days in half, citing staff shortages and drug smuggling.
The Florida Department of Corrections has upended visitation in the last nine months, even as it says it agrees with a growing consensus around the importance of in-person contact to prevent inmates from re-entering the criminal justice system upon their release.
There is a growing contraband problem in Florida prisons, one that has been linked to rising violence and funding shortfalls. While the amount of contraband seized in prisons has risen steadily over the last five years, the number directly attributable to visitors has remained steady at around 2.5 percent.
“In spite of our diligent efforts, we are experiencing a vast increase in the amount of contraband being introduced into correctional facilities statewide,” Deputy Secretary of Institutions Ricky D. Dixon wrote in a memo earlier this month. “These hindrances make it difficult to maintain the positive environment required and expected in our visiting parks.”