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How Many Prisons Are In Florida?

Florida has one of the largest prison systems in the United States, with over 100 correctional facilities located throughout the state. The growth of Florida’s prison population over the past few decades has necessitated a rapid expansion of the state’s prisons, jails, and detention centers.

So exactly how many prisons are there in Florida today? What types of facilities make up the state’s sprawling correctional system? This article takes a close look at the size, scope, and composition of Florida’s prisons.

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A Look at Florida’s Prison Population Growth

Florida’s prison population has exploded in recent decades. Here’s a quick overview of how the state’s inmate numbers have grown:

  • In 1980, Florida had around 22,000 prisoners in its correctional system.
  • By 1990, the state’s prison population had nearly doubled to around 43,000 inmates.
  • Over the next 20 years, Florida’s inmate population continued to skyrocket. By 2010, the state had over 100,000 prisoners locked up.
  • As of 2022, Florida has an estimated 94,000 prisoners incarcerated in state correctional facilities. This makes it the third largest prison population of any U.S. state, behind only California and Texas.

This rapid inmate growth has been driven by a combination of harsh sentencing laws, the war on drugs, mandatory minimums, and an aging inmate population. The influx of prisoners has forced Florida to continually expand its prison capacity.

Types of Correctional Facilities in Florida

To house its burgeoning prisoner population, Florida has developed a diverse network of state-run correctional institutions:

State Prisons

Florida has 50 major state prisons, which hold inmates sentenced to longer than one year of incarceration. A majority of Florida’s 94,000 state prisoners are housed in these facilities.

State prisons are maximum and medium security facilities run by the Florida Department of Corrections. They house convicted felons with longer sentences, including life sentences.

Some of Florida’s most notorious state prisons include Union Correctional Institution, Florida State Prison, Broward Correctional Institution, and Dade Correctional Institution.

Private Prisons

In addition to state prisons, Florida contracts with 3 private prison companies to operate 7 correctional facilities housing state inmates.

Private prisons house around 10% of Florida’s state prisoners. They operate under contracts with the state government and are run by for-profit companies like The GEO Group and CoreCivic.

Major private prisons in Florida include South Bay Correctional Facility, Graceville Correctional Facility, and Moore Haven Correctional Facility. Private prisons help provide additional capacity but have faced criticism over safety, security, and living conditions.

Federal Prisons

Florida is also home to a sizable federal prison population, with 11 federal prisons and prison camps located in the state.

These facilities hold inmates sentenced under federal law, such as immigration violations, federal drug convictions, and white collar crimes. They are operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons rather than the state.

Notable federal prisons in Florida include FCI Miami, FCI Tallahassee, FCI Coleman, and FCI Marianna.

County Jails

Florida has 67 county jails that hold local inmates or state prisoners awaiting trial or transfer. County jails are run by local sheriff’s offices rather than the state corrections department.

Larger county jails include those in Miami-Dade, Broward County, Orange County, Hillsborough County, and Palm Beach County. County jails house lower security inmates with shorter sentences.

Juvenile Detention Facilities

The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice oversees 46 juvenile detention centers and residential facilities for youth offenders. These range from high-security facilities to group homes and non-secure residential programs.

Major juvenile detention facilities include the Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center and Volusia Regional Juvenile Detention Center.

Other Facility Types

Florida also has a range of other correctional facilities including prison work camps, road prisons, forestry camps, joint county/state facilities, annexes, and work release centers. These provide additional capacity and transitional services.

The Geography of Florida’s Prison System

Florida’s vast correctional system spans facilities located across the state’s 67 counties. However, prisons tend to be clustered in certain regions.

The Florida Department of Corrections groups the state’s major prisons into 4 regions:

Northwest Region

The Florida panhandle has 12 major state prisons such as Apalachee Correctional Institution, Gulf Correctional Institution, and Santa Rosa Correctional Institution. This sparsely populated region provides remote sites for large prison compounds.

Northeast Region

North-Central Florida east of Tallahassee has 12 major state prisons including Columbia Correctional Institution, Madison Correctional Institution, and Suwannee Correctional Institution. Many of these were built around Lake City.

Central Region

The Central Florida area surrounding Orlando contains 12 major state prisons, including Tomoka Correctional Institution, Lowell Correctional Institution, and Sumter Correctional Institution in Bushnell.

Southern Region

South Florida and the Miami metro area holds 14 state prisons, including Dade Correctional Institution, Everglades Correctional Institution, and Homestead Correctional Institution. The region’s larger population provides inmate labor.

While state prisons tend to be clustered regionally, most of Florida’s counties have local jails that feed into the state corrections system. Private prisons and federal prisons are more scattered statewide.

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Here is a table summarizing the distribution of different types of correctional facilities across Florida’s regions:

RegionState PrisonsFederal PrisonsPrivate PrisonsCounty Jails
Northwest121216
Northeast123212
Central121011
Southern146328

This geography highlights the decentralization and diversity of Florida’s prisons across urban, suburban, and rural areas statewide. Transporting and managing prisoners across these dispersed facilities presents a major logistical challenge.

Florida’s Corrections Budget and Prison Operational Costs

The scale of Florida’s prison system also makes it extremely costly to operate, with over $2 billion spent annually on corrections.

Florida’s total corrections budget for 2022-2023 is $2.6 billion. Around $2.1 billion of that goes towards incarcerating almost 94,000 inmates in state prisons and supervision of nearly 166,000 individuals on parole, probation, or other community supervision.

The average cost to house an inmate in a Florida state prison for one year is around $20,500. That translates to approximately $1.94 billion going just to incarcerating current state prisoners for one year.

Beyond this yearly inmate cost, Florida’s prison system requires massive infrastructure, personnel, healthcare, training, administration, and support services:

  • Florida employs around 24,000 corrections and probation officers statewide
  • The state Department of Corrections operates over 4 million sq. feet of prison facilities
  • Over 10.5 million meals are served each year in Florida’s state prisons
  • Florida’s inmate healthcare costs exceed $300 million annually
  • Hundreds of millions more are spent on utilities, maintenance, transportation, training, IT, and other prison system services

The scale of spending highlights how Florida prioritizes imprisonment as a key public service, allocating billions in taxpayer dollars to incarcerate citizens yearly. Critics argue these funds could be better invested in education, rehabilitation, and prevention programs to ultimately reduce inmate populations. But political leaders continue to expand Florida’s prison capacity.

Florida’s Prison Population Compared Nationally

Florida’s position as the 3rd largest state prison system is the result of decades of inmate population growth. But how exactly does Florida compare to the rest of the U.S. prison system today?

With around 94,000 prisoners in state facilities, Florida accounts for approximately:

  • 6.8% of the total US state prison population
  • The 3rd highest state prison population after California and Texas
  • A state prison incarceration rate of 442 inmates per 100,000 state residents – above the national rate of 420 state prisoners per 100,000 US residents

However, Florida’s inmate population is not growing as rapidly today. As prison growth has stabilized nationwide, Florida’s state prison system has seen a modest 2.6% decline in inmates from 2010 to 2020.

Still, Florida maintains one of the highest incarceration rates in the U.S. due to stringent sentencing laws and lack of early release programs. Going forward, Florida’s leaders face the challenge of managing a huge, aging prison population eating up a significant chunk of the state budget.

Florida Prison Population Demographics

Beyond the sheer size of Florida’s inmate population, the demographic makeup of state prisoners highlights significant disparities in the criminal justice system:

Gender

  • Around 93% of Florida’s state prisoners are male, while just 7% are female

Race/Ethnicity

  • Approximately 47% of Florida prisoners are Black
  • About 41% are White
  • Around 12% are Hispanic

Age

  • 12% of Florida inmates are age 24 or younger
  • 63% of inmates are ages 25 to 54
  • 25% are age 55 or older

Sentence Lengths

  • 16% of Florida inmates are serving life sentences
  • 22% are serving 20+ year sentences
  • 36% have sentences between 5 and 20 years
  • 26% have sentences under 5 years

These statistics illustrate how Florida’s prisoner population skews heavily male and non-white, with many inmates serving very lengthy sentences. However, the data also shows how Florida’s historically harsh sentencing laws have led to aging prison populations.

Florida’s Private Prison Industry

A unique element of Florida’s prison system is its extensive use of private, for-profit prisons to hold state inmates. Florida has turned to private prisons since the 1990s to provide additional bed space quickly and cheaply amid rapid growth in inmate populations.

As of 2022, Florida has 7 private prisons holding around 10% of the state’s inmates. The private facilities are operated by major prison corporations through contracts with the Florida Department of Corrections.

The private prison companies operating in Florida include:

  • The GEO Group – Headquartered in Boca Raton, GEO manages 5 prisons in Florida holding around 7,000 inmates. Their facilities include South Bay Correctional, Moore Haven Correctional, and Graceville Correctional.
  • CoreCivic – Previously known as Corrections Corporation of America, CoreCivic runs 2 Florida prisons – Lake City Correctional and Bay Correctional Facility.

Cost Savings vs. Quality Concerns

Private prisons are seen as a low cost option, with per inmate rates around $60/day compared to $55/day in state facilities. But critics argue corporate-run facilities have more safety issues and provide lower quality services like healthcare, programming, and rehabilitation.

Florida has turned to private operators to provide quick bedspace as leaders have expanded mandatory minimum sentences and incarceration rates. But as state inmates decline, Florida may reduce private prison use in the future.

Key Factors Driving Florida’s Prison Growth

Florida provides an interesting case study in prison population growth over the past 40 years. What key factors at the state and national level helped balloon Florida’s inmate numbers since the 1980s?

War on Drugs

Florida’s inmate surge tracked closely with the national War on Drugs starting in the 1980s. Harsher penalties for drug crimes, especially targeting crack cocaine, swelled Florida’s prisons. At 2017, over 15,000 Florida prisoners were serving time for drug offenses.

Mandatory Minimum Sentencing

Florida laws impose strict mandatory minimums that take sentencing discretion away from judges. Even minor crimes can carry multi-year mandatory minimum sentences. Longer drug trafficking sentences have been a major driver.

Truth in Sentencing Laws

Under truth-in-sentencing statutes, Florida inmates must serve 85% of their sentence regardless of good behavior. This keeps inmates incarcerated longer instead of being released early.

Sentencing Guidelines

Florida’s strict sentencing guidelines and points systems assign felons a high sentence score, limiting judicial discretion to lower sentences in individual cases. Even small infractions can ratchet up years behind bars.

Aging Prison Population

Long mandatory minimum and truth in sentencing laws have created an aging prison population. Since Florida inmates are incarcerated for so much of their sentence, the median prisoner age has risen to 35 years old today. Housing elderly inmates drives up costs.

Repeat Offender Laws

As other states have eased repeat offender laws, Florida has retained rigid enhancements for repeat felons. Habitual offender laws ratchet up sentences and leave little flexibility for judges.

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The Resulting Growth of Florida’s Prison Industrial Complex

Driven by the above factors, Florida has seen an explosion in its corrections infrastructure since the 1980s. The state now runs a multi-billion dollar prison industrial complex encompassing all facets of inmate management and control.

Florida’s vast prison system today includes:

  • 50 major state prisons along with numerous other state-run facilities like annexes, work camps, and work release centers
  • Around 24,000 corrections officers overseeing security, prisoner transport, healthcare, food service, maintenance, and rehabilitation programs
  • High-tech security equipment like motion sensors, video cameras, trespass detection systems, surveillance drones, and phone monitoring technology
  • A fleet of over 2,000 prison transport vehicles logging millions of miles per year transferring inmates
  • Inmate health, mental health, dental care, substance abuse treatment, and educational/vocational training offerings at facilities statewide
  • Expansive prison maintenance operations encompassing plumbing, electrical, HVAC, sewage treatment, and construction services
  • Massive prison food preparation and service operations feeding over 94,000 inmates three meals per day
  • State-wide logistic operations that distribute food, supplies, commissary items, medications, uniforms, and other items to all prisons weekly
  • Sophisticated statewide prisoner information databases, real-time communication networks, and data analytics used for tracking inmates and forecasting trends
  • Partnerships with over 3,100 state, county, and private sector vendors that provide specialized products and services to prisons
  • 7 private, for-profit prisons housing inmates in exchange for taxpayer funds
  • Self-sustaining prison work programs that provide labor for essential prison operations while reducing inmate idleness

This multi-billion dollar prison apparatus employs tens of thousands of Floridians in communities statewide. Like most states, Florida now relies on prisons as a jobs program and economic engine, especially in rural areas. Dismantling its massive prison system would negatively impact many communities.

Do Private Prisons Save Florida Money?

Florida has turned to private prisons since the 1990s to provide additional capacity quickly and cheaply amid rapid growth in inmate populations. But do for-profit prisons actually save Florida taxpayers money compared to state-run facilities?

Proponents argue private prisons reduce costs through:

  • Lower Operations Costs – Private prisons pay lower salaries, reduce staffing, and cut corners, allowing them to operate at 10-15% below state costs per inmate.
  • No Retirement Costs – Avoiding state correctional staff pension and benefits costs saves long-term.
  • Flexible Staffing – Private firms staff up or down rapidly as populations change.
  • No Capital Costs – Private operators build facilities so the state avoids construction costs.

However, critics counter that private prisons have higher risks that offset any savings:

  • Safety Issues – For-profit facilities have higher incident rates involving assaults, contraband, and major disturbances. This raises monitoring costs.
  • Inmate Health – Private operators have cut healthcare services and been sued over lacking adequate medical staff and resources.
  • Lack of Transparency – It’s harder to obtain data on safety, costs, programs, and living conditions at private facilities.
  • Monitoring Costs – The state still has large contract management and compliance oversight costs despite privatization.
  • No Program Savings – Most inmate programs and work opportunities are comparable to state prisons.

Florida saves around 5-15% going private based on different studies. But poor conditions and safety risks could offset these savings. Some leaders argue the state should focus on sentencing reform, not private prisons, to significantly lower inmate populations and costs.

Impact of COVID-19 on Florida’s Prison System

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted prison systems nationwide due to high infection rates, close inmate living quarters, aging populations, and limited healthcare capacity. Florida faced major outbreaks across its prisons.

Prison Outbreaks

  • Florida prisons saw over 32,000 total inmate cases and over 250 prisoner deaths from COVID-19 as of late 2022.

Early Releases

  • Unlike other states, Florida released very few low-level inmates early in the pandemic to improve social distancing. Less than 3,000 Florida prisoners were released – far fewer than states like California.

Lockdowns and Visitation Limits

  • Florida restricted inmate transfers and visitation during outbreaks to limit COVID spread. But long lockdowns raised human rights issues and took a psychological toll on inmates.

Staffing and Healthcare Strains

  • Thousands of prison staff also contracted COVID. Staff shortages and limited infirmary capacity made managing outbreaks extremely difficult.

Vaccination Rollouts

  • Florida prioritized prison staff and vulnerable inmates for early COVID vaccine access. But vaccine hesitancy among staff posed challenges, while inmates had limited ability to consent.

Lawsuits Over Conditions

  • Prisoner rights groups sued Florida over COVID safety failures and disability access issues. But the state faced less litigation than prison systems in states like California.

While Florida took measures to control COVID behind bars, its crowded, understaffed prisons with limited healthcare access faced severe risks during the pandemic. Managing the long-term health impacts across its massive inmate population will be an ongoing challenge.

Ongoing Controversies and Issues in Florida Prisons

Even before the pandemic, Florida’s prison system had many controversies, scandals, and systemic issues that drew public criticism:

Corruption and Abuse Cases

  • There have been frequent cases of officers and staff arrested for smuggling contraband, accepting bribes, or sexually abusing inmates. Poor screening and training contribute to misconduct.

Mental Health and Solitary Confinement Concerns

  • Florida relies heavily on extended solitary confinement to manage mentally ill inmates, raising human
  • Florida relies heavily on extended solitary confinement to manage mentally ill inmates, raising human rights issues. Mentally ill inmates lack adequate treatment options.

Heat Risks and Lack of Air Conditioning

  • Most Florida inmate housing lacks air conditioning, putting elderly and vulnerable prisoners at risk during hot summers. There have been fights over installing AC.

Staffing Shortages

  • Like most states, Florida prisons face chronic correctional officer staffing shortages leading to safety and oversight issues. Jobs have low pay and high turnover.

Healthcare and Rehabilitation Failures

  • Inmate advocates argue prisoners lack adequate access to healthcare, rehabilitation programs, job training, education, and activities – resulting in high recidivism.

Overcrowding Concerns

  • While inmate populations have stabilized, some older Florida prisons remain over capacity, raising fire risks and sanitation issues.

Privatization and Profiteering Critiques

  • Critics argue Florida wastes millions contracting with for-profit prison operators that provide substandard conditions and limited services to inmates just to benefit corporate bottom lines.

Wrongful Conviction Cases

  • More than a dozen Florida inmates have seen their convictions overturned and been exonerated in recent years after being imprisoned for decades. But the state has been slow to reexamine questionable cases.
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Drug Treatment and Mental Health Diversion Failures

  • Unlike other states, Florida has been slow to promote probation, diversion, treatment, and alternatives to imprisonment – leaving jails and prisons as de facto mental health facilities.

While Florida has modernized its prison operations in many ways, ongoing lawsuits, scandals, and deficiencies plague its massive correctional system. Rights groups continue to pressure Florida to reform sentencing, embrace rehabilitation and alternatives to incarceration, and improve prison conditions.

Key Challenges Facing Florida’s Prison System Going Forward

After decades of exponential inmate growth, Florida’s prison system faces major challenges going forward:

Managing Population Decline

For the first time in its modern history, Florida’s prison population has started gradually declining due to sentencing reforms and crime drops. But this requires right-sizing facilities and operations.

Staffing Shortfalls

Florida prisons have over 5,000 correctional officer vacancies, severely impacting safety, oversight, rehabilitation programs, and facility maintenance. Florida struggles to make these high-stress jobs appealing.

Rehabilitating an Aging Population

With its “truth in sentencing” laws, Florida has one of the oldest prison populations in the country. Keeping elderly inmates healthy and productively occupied will be difficult and costly.

Controlling Healthcare Costs

Florida spends over $300 million just on inmate healthcare. An aging population with more chronic conditions will drive these costs even higher in coming years.

Supporting Successful Reentry

As sentences expire, thousands of Florida inmates will need help transitioning to life after prison. But Florida spends less than most states on reentry programs and community partnerships.

Upgrading Deteriorating Facilities

Florida deferred maintenance and upgrades at many prisons during its population boom. Many are now dilapidated and pose safety risks. Bringing these aging facilities up to modern standards will be extremely expensive.

Adapting to Technological Change

Florida’s prisons still lack modern tech infrastructure. Upgrading information systems, cameras, communications networks, and analytics to improve monitoring, programs, healthcare, and safety will require major new IT investments.

Rethinking Private Partnerships

Florida relies heavily on for-profit prisons that have faced criticism over conditions and safety. As sentences decline, Florida will need to reconsider its pricey private prison contracts.

Florida has made modest reforms but still faces structural challenges across its massive, outdated, and increasingly expensive prison system. How the state adapts to declining inmate populations while improving facilities, technology, staffing, and rehabilitation will be critical in the years ahead.

Policy Options to Reduce Florida’s Prison Population

While Florida’s inmate count has stabilized, the state could take several policy steps to further reduce incarceration without compromising public safety:

  • Sentence Reduction Reforms – Allow nonviolent inmates to earn expanded good time credits toward early release based on program participation, labor, and education.
  • Young Offender Diversion – Direct more 18-25 year olds to alternative sanctions, probation, and diversion programs instead of prisons. Incarceration often entrenches criminality for youth.
  • Geriatric Release Programs – Create medical parole options for low-risk elderly inmates who pose minimal public safety risks. This would cut elderly care costs.
  • Probation Reforms – Reduce revocations to prison for minor technical violations of probation. Use community supervision and support programs instead.
  • Pre-Arrest Diversion – Expand initiatives to direct more people with mental illness and substance abuse issues to treatment programs instead of arrest and incarceration.
  • Re-Entry Transitional Housing – Fund more supervised housing programs and partnerships with non-profits to ease ex-inmate reentry and reduce homelessness and recidivism after release.
  • Medicaid Re-Enrollment – Improve Florida’s poor rate of re-enrolling ex-inmates into Medicaid to increase their healthcare access and provide continuity of care after release.

Florida has yet to implement reforms common in other large states that safely cut incarceration rates and costs. But new political leaders are gradually recognizing the need to shift to prevention and rehabilitation strategies.

Will Florida Ever Downsize Its Prison System?

After decades of prison expansion, could Florida ever significantly downsize its massive prison system?

There are signs of gradual decarceration:

  • Crime and arrest rates continue declining, meaning fewer new prisoner intakes.
  • Florida has modestly reduced enhanced punishments for drug and nonviolent crimes.
  • The state closed seven prisons from 2011 to 2017 as its inmate population fell 10%.
  • Florida’s Truth in Sentencing laws require 85% of a sentence be served, leaving less flexibility for early release.
  • Powerful prison guard unions advocate keeping facilities open to preserve jobs.
  • Many rural towns economically rely on prisons for employment.
  • Political leaders still emphasize lengthier incarceration, not rehabilitation, as the priority.

Without major reforms, Florida’s incarceration rates and correctional costs will remain extremely high. Significant downsizing would require rethinking sentencing laws, prison alternatives, and the role of incarceration in the criminal justice system.

For now, Florida is making small strides to contain its prison bloat. But the state lacks the decisive leadership needed to meaningfully transform its massive prison apparatus despite the huge taxpayer expense. Absent major changes in public attitudes and political dynamics, major downsizing of Florida’s system remains unlikely in the near term.

Conclusion

Florida’s prison system has swelled over the past four decades to become one of the largest in the country. Driven by harsh sentencing laws and the War on Drugs, Florida’s inmate population exploded eight-fold since the 1980s to over 90,000 prisoners today.

To house these inmates, Florida has built dozens of prisons along with an extensive bureaucracy and infrastructure for managing its vast corrections system. Florida’s prison expansion has also been enabled by extensive use of private, for-profit incarceration providers to operate facilities for state prisoners.

While its inmate count has stabilized and modestly declined recently, Florida still maintains one of the highest incarceration rates nationally at great taxpayer expense. Ongoing problems like understaffing, aging facilities, limited rehabilitation programs, and poor healthcare continue to plague the state’s prisons.

Looking ahead, Florida faces the challenges of managing population decline, upgrading deteriorating facilities, controlling costs, and improving outcomes. But deeply entrenched attitudes toward incarceration will likely prevent major downsizing of Florida’s correctional apparatus anytime soon.

Through this close examination of Florida’s prisons by the numbers, what becomes clear is that Florida relies heavily on incarceration as the primary response to crime – often at the expense of rehabilitation, prevention, and community-based alternatives. Rethinking this imprisonment-first mindset will be key to creating a more balanced criminal justice system focused on safety, accountability, and positive outcomes for all

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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