Fla. prison system, COs clash over shift changes

The Florida Department of Corrections is moving forward with the switch from 12-hour to 8.5-hour shifts at 17 prisons

By Sarah Calams

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Despite objections from union officials and a county judge, the Florida Department of Corrections will move forward with the switch from 12-hour to 8.5-hour shifts at 17 prisons.

FOX35Orlando.com reported that the move to short shifts "follows numerous national studies that have shown 8.5-hour shifts will reduce officer fatigue and create safer conditions for both staff and inmates." However, leaders of the Florida Police Benevolent Association disagree, saying the shift change will demoralize corrections officers. 

"The staff is miserable. They talk about how unfairly they're treated," Jim Baiardi, president of the state corrections chapter of the PBA, said. "I don't know how they think this is going to be better. I've asked them to wait until our court battles are over. Why stress the officers out when they're stressed to the max?"

Last year, Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson ruled state officials don't have the authority to initiate shift changes without negotiating with union officials. 

Michelle Glady, Department of Corrections spokeswoman, said the agency is working to accommodate employees requesting transfers to or from the prisons where the shift changes are occurring. 

"As I have shared previously, I and your senior leadership are convinced this change is one of the most essential moves our agency can make to help you achieve a positive personal and family/work-life balance and reduce the unsustainable attrition rate of new staff across our agency," Department of Corrections Secretary Mark Inch said.

Furthermore, Inch said the shift changes are a way to recruit and retain employees. 

"I've never seen the officers more upset about anything," the union's general counsel said. "They'd rather have the 12 stay than get the raise. I think they're just going to see people quitting left and right."

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