Inmate families protest a new policy that will reduce family visits in half. The state says too many people are bringing contraband into prisons; inmates and their relatives say it is the low-paid staff that is bringing in banned items.
Nearly 100 relatives of Florida inmates appeared in Tallahassee on Tuesday to protest a new policy that will reduce by half one of the most effective tools the Florida Department of Corrections has to manage the prison population: contact visitations, reports the Miami Herald. Under the proposal, the state will allow inmates to meet with visitors every other weekend instead of every weekend. The agency says staff shortages and a continued increase in illegal drugs, cell phones, weapons and other contraband have forced the change in policy.
The goal is to spread out the crowds to allow staff to provide more time and attention to searching visitors to reduce the introduction of contraband, said corrections spokesperson Michelle Glady. Family members told a panel of senior prison officials that they are being punished for the failure of the agency to police its own staff, whom they believe smuggle in cigarettes, drugs and cell phones to augment their low salaries. “We’re not bringing in the contraband. It’s them,” said Lisa Teets, who visits her imprisoned son every weekend and holiday and undergoes a pat down every time, including when she goes into and out of the restroom. Kyle Williford testified that he was released from prison last week after a three-year sentence served for burglarizing his parents and sister to feed his drug habit. “My experience is the contraband at the Department of Corrections comes from staff members,” he said. “These men and women have to watch child molesters, rapists, murderers, and they get paid as much as your average Wal-Mart employee.”