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State To Temporarily Close Three Prisons, Including Baker Correctional Institution

Fla. Department of Corrections
Baker Correctional Institution

Amid continued staffing shortages, the state Department of Corrections said Friday it plans to temporarily close three North Florida prisons. The department said in a news release that it is relocating staff and inmates at Baker Correctional Institution, New River Correctional Institution and Cross City Correctional Institution. Inmates have already been evacuated from the Cross City facility because of flooding this month.

“All FDC (Florida Department of Corrections) employees will be temporarily reassigned to a neighboring institution,” the news release said. “Staff will not lose their job or rank, as these measures are temporary. Every effort to maintain housing within an inmate’s current custody status will be made.”

The department has long grappled with staffing shortages, and the number of inmates in the prison system has dropped during the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of inmates was 80,495 as of the June 30 end of the 2020-2021 state fiscal year, down from as many as 99,119 at the end of the 2015-2016 year, according to a report released this month by state analysts.

But with courts working through a backlog of felony cases that built up because of the pandemic, the inmate population is projected to increase to 86,223 at the end of the current 2021-2022 fiscal year and continue gradually increasing to 93,414 inmates at the end of the 2026-2027 year, according to the report from a panel known as the Criminal Justice Estimating Conference.

The three prisons slated for temporary closure are in a region that has numerous prisons. New River Correctional is near Raiford, while Baker Correctional is near Sanderson.