One of the most elusive processes within the Florida Dept. of Corrections System is that of the Disciplinary Report (DR). The purpose of the DR is to temporarily remove an inmate from the general population in the interest of security and safety and is written by an officer when an inmate violates the rules of the Department.
The DR process was designed to be used as a last resort once other options such as a reprimand, probation, suspension of visitation and other privileges, extra duties or counseling have been exhausted. The inmate may be placed in administrative confinement until a hearing is held a few days later. Present at the hearing is a disciplinary team consisting of at least 2 members, a representative from classification who serves as the team chair and a correctional officer – Lieutenant or above. Minor disciplinary reports are handled by a hearing officer although the inmate is given the option to request the case be referred to the disciplinary team which hears all major reports. Those present at these hearings may include the employee filing the charge, the investigative officer, employee witness(inmate witnesses document their statements), authorized persons who may benefit by observing the proceedings and other individuals who can clarify information or facts related to the DR. Although the inmate is given the opportunity to plea, make a statement and to present witness statements, he/she has no legal representation at these hearings that often result in very harsh sentences ranging from probation to long-term confinement. If confined, the inmate is stripped of visitation privileges, commissary privileges, may lose gain time and is disallowed phone calls (except from an attorney).
Decisions for disciplinary action made by the Board or Hearing Officer are approved, modified downward or disapproved by the warden or the regional director. And even with all of these safeguards in place, this process is not always used as purposed. So here you have an inmate who is under represented, standing before the peers of the officer who wrote the DR which may or may not have any validity. When this process breaks down, the inmate becomes the object of unscrupulous power plays by staff members. The DR process is not in place to crush the heart, soul and spirit of inmates who do not warrant the unjust consequences but can be easily used as such.
Mr. Anthony M. Kennedy, Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court, stated in his address before the American Bar Association, “To be sure the prisoner has violated the social contract; to be sure he must be punished to vindicate the law, to acknowledge the suffering of the victim and to deter future crimes. Still, the prisoner is a person; still, he or she is part of the family of humankind.” Discipline is a factor in correctional treatment and control. The Department’s Vision is to utilize effective and innovative correctional strategies that make Florida’s Dept. of Corrections the best in the world. Until we treat every inmate as we would like to be treated given his/her situation, the Department’s Vision will remain clouded.
Disciplinary Hearings (33-601.307)