Riverview facility among 6 Florida prisons to close by this summer

2:39 PM, Mar 15, 2011   |    comments
Florida officials wanted to close six of the state's correctional facilities for a savings of at least $30 million this year, including the Hillsborough Correctional Institution in Riverview.
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TALLAHASSEE, Florida -- In a move to save more than $30 million, the state today announced plans to close three prisons, two bootcamp programs and a road work prison.

No inmates will be released early because of the cost-saving consolidations and employees will be offered jobs in other institutions, the Department of Corrections said.

The Brevard Correctional Institution in Cocoa and the Tallahassee road prison are on the list, along with the Sumter and Lowell Boot Camps, the Hendry Correctional Institution in Immokalee and Hillsborough Correctional Institution in Riverview.

"This plan is the right thing to do because it will save Florida taxpayers millions of dollars," said Edwin Buss, secretary of the department. "The facilities to be closed are older and require more resources to operate than newer institutions."

In addition to $30.8 million in annual operating costs, the agency estimated it will avoid $25 million in repairs and other expenses.

With a current population of 101,711 prisoners, the system has a surplus of cell space, so no inmates will be released early.

A department spokeswoman said the 975 youthful offenders at Brevard will be transferred to other prisons in the area. The 238 employees at Brevard will be offered jobs at Tomoka or the Central Florida Reception Center in Orlando.

The Tallahassee road camp, built in 1941, needs about $422,000 in repairs, the DOC said. Its 82 inmates will be moved to the Quincy Annex and will continue providing labor for sheriffs and other agencies in surrounding counties. The 30 employees will also be offered positions at the Quincy Annex or Jefferson Correctional Institution.

DOC said eight employees will be affected by closing of the Lowell boot camp, which opened in 1997 when boot camps were a popular option. It was not immediately known how many younger inmates were at Lowell.

Hendry, built in 1979, is located in an area where the department has had trouble recruiting employees. It has 722 inmates and 137 employees, and the workers will be offered positions at Charlotte, Glades and Broward County prisons.

The Hendry and Lowell boot camps are closing, not the prisons at those locations. Some close-management inmates will be moved out of Charlotte, in Punta Gorda, to three other institutions.

The Hillsborough closing will affect 141 staff and 292 prisoners. It is a female faith and character-based institution and the women will be moved to Lowell and the Lowell work camp, temporarily. The staff at Hillsborough will be offered positions at Hardee, Hernando, Zephyrhills, Demilly and Polk Correctional Institutions.

The department plans to begin a "draw down" of inmate populations at the institutions on April 1, with the closings and reassignments completed by June 1.

Bill Cotterell, Florida Capital Bureau

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