Miami-Dade County

Reported use of force declines in Florida prisons

The number of incidents in which Florida Department of Corrections officers used force on inmates has declined to a five-year low, according to an annual report from the department’s Office of Inspector General. The decrease in reported incidents reverses an upward trend, which had seen a near doubling of use of force from 2007 to 2012.

“We are very encouraged by the decline in use-of-force incidents,” said Department of Corrections spokesman McKinley Lewis, crediting the reversal to increased staff training in crisis intervention and leadership accountability.

The total number of use-of-force incidents for the most recent fiscal year was 6,197, a 14 percent drop from the prior year’s 7,240 incidents. The number of incidents last decreased by about 6 percent in the fiscal year 2012-2013, largely because of a change in what events required a use-of-force report.

The “use-of-force” label is applied when a corrections officer employs chemical or physical force to control an inmate, often for resisting orders or causing a disturbance. The most significant decrease in the number of use-of-force incidents involved quelling “disturbances”: 1,330 occurrences were reported in this year’s report, compared to more than 2,400 last year.

The agency’s inmate population has remained flat, hovering at around 100,000 prisoners for the past two years.

The report also documented the amount of contraband confiscated from prisoners in the past year. The amount of confiscated marijuana fell from about 2,342 grams to 549 grams. The amount of synthetic drugs, which have surged in the past few years, dipped slightly: About 12,500 grams were seized this year, compared to 13,360 grams the previous year.

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