The Florida Department of Corrections (DOC), in a state that houses over 102,000 inmates in its 63 state prisons, is conducting a cost saving initiative in an effort to chip away at a nearly $50 million deficit in the current year’s $2.1 billion budget. This has all culminated from the agency’s budget being slashed by more than $484 million over the last five years, while at the same time having its inmate population increase. This cost savings initiative has been ongoing for some time, but due to an increased deficit as of late, the Agency has ramped up the intensity in an effort to find further cost savings opportunities. No stone is going unturned in this reinvigorated effort which is being led by Florida’s DOC Secretary, Mike Crews. Crews was appointed Secretary of the Florida DOC this past December. Crews has had a momentous hill to climb upon arriving in the position, but he has been up for the challenge.

In the premature stages of this effort, Crews communicated his intent to the Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee. Within this meeting it was unveiled that Crews intended to reduce the deficit by conducting a cost savings overhaul on prison healthcare costs and other miscellaneous categories. Contributing to the  high deficit as of late are issues such as high healthcare costs incurred by the aging and otherwise ailing Florida inmate population. These high healthcare costs have only compounded within the Florida State prison system considering that Florida has an incarceration rate that is 26% higher than the national average; and it is because of this that Florida has the third highest prison population only behind California and Texas respectively. These factors have combined to force the Agency, led by Crews, to put a microscope on the DOC expense report in an effort to find any opportunity for cost savings.
Thus far, Crews has taken a creative approach in whittling down the deficit. As of September of this year, crews and his team have saved $900,000 by rebidding the DOC State Prisons’ contract for paper towels and toilet paper. Crews has taken a look into even more obscure categories when he opted to de-privatize their pest control services, which saved the DOC over $250,000. In addition, Crews led the way in an initiative to save money on mileage reimbursements for probation officers by buying them used cars, thus eliminating the need for mileage reimbursements altogether. This has saved the DOC an estimated $500,000. The DOC has also saved an estimated $600,000 by consolidating their office leases. These miscellaneous and small scope savings strategies have been adding up to accumulate some significant cost savings.

Other miscellaneous savings initiatives have turned their focus to the inmates themselves. Industrial size dishwasher machines at multiple sites across the state are starting to fall apart. Instead of going forward with expensive repairs, Crews and his staff have suggested that the inmates build new sinks themselves, thus eliminating the need for expensive repairs. In addition to this, inmates have started to sew their own uniforms and bedclothes.
More significant strategies have also been formulated by Crews which include the privatization of health care services across all Florida DOC facilities. The DOC has contracted with two private healthcare firms: Wexford and Corizon. The ultimate goal for this strategic move is for the two providers to deliver services at a reduced cost while keeping expenditures in check for the aging prison population and ailing inmates. This outsourcing of healthcare, which has been executed throughout the month of October, is estimated to save between $40 million and $50 million annually.

Crews has also led the charge on an initiative to rebid the telephone services at prison facilities throughout the state. Thus far have been three responsive bidders: Securus, Global Tel Link, and CentryLink. There has been no contract awarded as of yet, but this new contract is estimated to deliver significant cost savings after the three bidders battle it out for the awarding of the contract.
Overall, Crews has taken an all-encompassing approach in reducing the budget deficit. Through not only looking at the trademark savings categories, and turning the focus towards more ambiguous categories, Crews has found significant value in savings opportunities that would often go overlooked. Though the budget deficit still lingers, Crews and his staff certainly put a dent in the deficit by thinking outside of the box and creating an innovative strategy.
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Ken Ballard

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  1. Where are these paper towels and soap? We don't see much at our institution. The savings comes from not providing what they are required to by OSHA, especially in a high risk environment. Ditto on toilet paper. Some of us regularly bring our own from home.
    As for healthcare, you should see home many labs are done on healthy inmates in their teens and twenties. How sick can they be if they are running around a recreation yard all day playing basketball?
    It costs money for the law draw equipment, shipping the blood out, having the tests run, and getting the results back.
    He is certainly saving money by putting officers at risk by EXTREME short staffing. Shifts that are staffed with youngsters that have not even been to the academy. Several of these uncertified, unschooled, inexperienced kids and one certified officer in a dining area with hundreds of inmates.
    You should find out the truth before making anyone your hero.