Florida’s prison system, with 144 facilities and 102,000 inmates is the third-largest in the nation, with a $2.3 billion budget. Wednesday brought the resignation of it’s Secretary, Ed Buss, who held a’ six month-long tenure and earned an annual salary of $144,999. Buss, 45, came to Tallahassee from Indiana, where he ran that state’s prison system. Only time will tell how these internal disruptions will muddle the future of the Florida Department of Corrections. One day complications, the next day resignations!
St. Petersburg Times 8/23/11
“Buss’ zeal to improve the system has hit two hurdles in the past week, suggesting growing tension between Buss and the Governor’s Office. Scott’s staff questioned Buss’ decision to sign a deal with MSNBC to tape six episodes of its Lockup series at Santa Rosa Correctional Institution in Milton and ordered the contract scrapped. The network would have paid the state $110,000, and the prison system would have had final say on which scenes were used.
The Governor’s Office also ordered changes to a bid proposal to privatize all prison health care services. The bid specified that a vendor must be accredited by the American Correctional Association. The bid’s author, health care consultant Betty Gondles – who also did work for Buss in Indiana – is the wife of the Association’s executive director, James Gondles. Gondles was hired on a 10-month contract for $180,000. (Buss’ spokeswoman, Gretl Plessinger, said Gondles’ contract would be canceled by Wednesday ‘by mutual agreement’).”
Orlando Sentinel 8/24/11
“Scott’s office said ‘differences in philosophy and management styles arose which made the separation in the best interests of the state’. Scott officials were angry that the department failed to run several high-profile decisions through the governor’s staff.
This spring, lawmakers ordered the DOC to privatize prisons in an 18-county area of South Florida in hopes of saving money.The prison privatization issue became one of the most politically volatile issues of the legislative session and dominated Buss’ time as DOC Secretary. Last week, Scott and the Legislature were embarrassed by reports that privatizing prisons in an 18-county South Florida region – which the Legislature ordered – would cost $25 million in benefits that would have to be paid to prison personnel who would lose their jobs; internal emails indicated Buss’ staff had previously warned legislators of this cost.
Scott immediately named Ken Tucker, Assistant Commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, to head the nation’s third-largest prison system. Tucker is a 34-year law-enforcement veteran who began his career with the Daytona Beach Police Department in 1977.”