Scott-O-Meter

Use inmate labor to grow prison food


Use "inmate labor to grow prison food."


Sources:

Rick Scott’s Plan to Turn Florida Around: 7 Steps. 700,000 New Jobs. 7 Years.

Subjects: Criminal Justice, Government Efficiency, State Budget

Updates:

Legislature provided small increase for edible crops in 2012-13

Updated: Thursday, May 9th, 2013 | By Amy Sherman

To help get to the goal of reducing prison costs by $1 billion, Rick Scott called for "utilizing inmate labor to grow prison food” when he ran for Governor in 2010.

The state already had an edible crops program that involves prisoners growing fruits and vegetables, so we are rating Scott's progress on increasing the program.

We rated Scott's promise Stalled after the Legislature rejected his request to provide a $2.5 million increase for the program in 2011.

But the 2012-13 budget included a one-time $300,000 increase to expand the program for a total of $1.24 million, said Ann Howard, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Corrections.

The department used that extra money to add 135 acres of production capacity and purchase irrigation systems and farm equipment. The expansion led to an increase in the weight of crops and dollar value:

First three quarters

2011-12

2012-13

Weight of crops

6,237,381 pounds

6,669,311 pounds

Value of crops

$3,371,607

$3,632,252

The Legislature did not approve any line-item increase for edible crops for 2013-14. That means the program is likely to continue at the base rate of $940,000.

The increase in 2012-13 was more modest than what Scott had previously sought. The state was able to use extra money to expand the scope of the program, but the expansion was relatively small.

Overall, we rate this promise a Compromise.

Sources:

Interview, Ann Howard, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Corrections, May 2, 2013

Gov. Scott's request to expand inmate food growing program killed by Legislature

Updated: Wednesday, November 9th, 2011 | By Amy Sherman

If prisoners are entitled to three hots and a cot, Gov. Rick Scott says they should at least have to help put that food on the table.

As part of his goal to trim prison costs, Scott said on his campaign website in 2010: "Paying competitive market-based salaries for corrections' staff, utilizing inmate labor to grow prison food and competitively bidding health care contracts resulting in public prison costs that are as low as private prisons, prisoner costs would be reduced by $1 billion."

In February 2011 when we evaluated Scott's progress toward his promise to use "inmate labor to grow prison food." We gave him an In the Works based on his budget proposal that cut $5.3 million in inmate food while giving the corrections department $2.5 million to expand the edible crops program.

At the time, Dan Ronay, the new chief of staff at the corrections department, told us the $2.5 million to expand the edible crops program would allow the department to purchase better equipment and irrigation systems. Adding the $2.5 million in increased costs to the reduction of $5.3 million translates to a savings of about $2.8 million in the first year, Ronay said. But that $2.5 million investment that will allow inmates to grow more fruits and vegetables translates to savings in future years as well, he said. (Ronay resigned in October after the abrupt August resignation of Ed Buss, the department's secretary, amid a dispute about a privatization effort.)

The Legislature didn't approve any funds for the edible crops program in the General Appropriations Act, although it did reduce the food service budget by $5.3 million this fiscal year, DOC spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger wrote in an e-mail.

Scott's recommendation for $2.5 million didn't survive the budget process. The Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee recommended funding of $1 million. However, the House's counter-offer was zero, and that is the one that prevailed.

The edible crops program still exists -- it has about $940,000 in funding for this year, according to corrections spokeswoman Jo Ellyn Rackleff. That's the same amount as the prior year, she said. What Scott tried to do was increase funding for prisoners to grow their own food, but the Legislature killed that idea for now. We rate this promise Stalled.

Sources:

Rick Scott campaign website, 7-7-7 plan, 2010 campaign

Florida Senate, "FY 2011-12 conference bump issues subcommittee on criminal and civil justice appropriations," April 30, 2011

Florida Senate, "Senate budget subcommittee on criminal and civil justice appropriations/house justice appropriations subcommittee Senate Offer #1,"April 27, 2011 

Florida Department of Corrections, Edible food program, 2009-10

Florida Senate subcommittee on criminal and civil justice approrpriations, meeting packet, Feb. 10, 2011

Interview, Gretl Plessinger, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Corrections, Nov. 5, 2011

Interview, Jo Ellyn Rackleff, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Corrections, Nov. 8, 2011

Rick Scott wants to expand inmate food growing program

Updated: Thursday, February 10th, 2011 | By Amy Sherman

Prisoners in Florida are hardly living high on the hog, but one way Republican Gov. Rick Scott promised to reduce government spending was trimming the fat from their food costs.

Here is what Scott said about cutting prison costs on his campaign website in 2010: "Paying competitive market-based salaries for corrections' staff, utilizing inmate labor to grow prison food and competitively bidding health care contracts, prisoner costs would be reduced by $1 billion." We will focus on steps he has taken toward using inmate labor to grow prison food.

In Scott's first proposed budget released Feb. 7, 2011, under programmatic efficiencies on Page 7, he listed about a $5.3 million savings in inmate food.

First, some background about the state's prison food program that we pulled from an Oct. 4, 2010, Truth-O-Meter item about the nation's third-largest state prison system with more than 100,000 inmates:

"Another way Scott wants to save money is by having inmates grow their own food. But having inmates in charge of their own meals may only provide minor cost savings. The agency fired two private food service vendors two years ago and now cooks all prison meals in-house to save money. The daily food cost per inmate in August 2010 was $2.30. The Department of Corrections also already grows its own food. Inmates harvested over 4.7 million pounds of produce last year, including broccoli, cabbage, cantaloupe and watermelon. The crops supplement inmate meals, but cannot sustain inmates because of unpredictable weather and the large inmate population, officials said."

DOC spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger told us in an e-mail Feb. 8 that the daily food cost includes food, labor and cleaning products. Thirty-six prison facilities have inmates working in the edible crops program. Plessinger sent us a list of the food grown in that program in 2009-10.

Plessinger said that although Scott is cutting $5.3 million in overall prison food costs, he is also giving the department an additional $2.5 million to expand the edible crops program -- both within the first year of his budget. Scott's plan to trim food costs is mentioned briefly here in materials prepared for a Feb. 10 meeting of a Senate committee that oversees prisons.

Dan Ronay, the new chief of staff at the corrections department, told us that the $5.3 million cut will be achieved through "better management of our food service delivery." That will include working with the vendor to reduce costs, security improvements to reduce inmates eating while working on the food line and making cheaper choices -- for example, possibly substituting juice with fruit punch.

"We are still going to deliver good meals to inmates with the caloric intake required," Ronay said, while "trying to be a little more diligent in our food delivery system."

The $2.5 million to expand the edible crops program will allow the department to purchase better equipment and irrigation systems. Adding the $2.5 million in increased costs to the reduction of $5.3 million translates to a savings of about $2.8 million in the first year, Ronay said. But that one-time $2.5 million investment that will allow inmates to grow more fruits and vegetables translates to savings in future years as well, he said.

A House budget subcommittee that oversees the prison system heard information about prison food costs during a Feb. 9 meeting. The chairman of the committee, Rep. Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City, said that one other possibility raised during the meeting by Bonnie Rogers, criminal justice policy coordinator in Scott's office, was moving to brunch on weekends rather than serving three meals a day.

Scott promised to use "inmate labor to grow prison food" as one way to reduce prison costs by $1 billion. He has proposed cutting $5.3 million in inmate food while giving the corrections department $2.5 million to expand the edible crops program. We'll have to see how the state Legislature handles his budget proposal this spring. For now, we rate this promise In the Works. 

Sources:

Rick Scott for governor campaign website, "Reduce Government Spending," 2010

Gov. Rick Scott's budget, "Programmatic Efficiencies," Feb. 7, 2011

PolitiFact, "Police union attacks Rick Scott's budget plan, saying it closes prisons and releases prisoners early," Oct. 4, 2010

Florida Department of Corrections, Edible food program, 2009-10

Florida Senate subcommittee on criminal and civil justice approrpriations, meeting packet, Feb. 10, 2011

Interview, Florida Department of Corrections chief of staff Dan Ronay, Feb. 9, 2011

Interview, Florida Department of Corrections spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger, Feb. 8-9, 2011

Interview, state Rep. Rich Glorioso, Feb. 9, 2011

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