Florida prison officials hope to attract more qualified candidates with higher pay

The Florida Department of Corrections is hiring and employees can make more than ever before. Officials said the new starting salary is $41,600, an increase of more than $8,000 a year.

John Siter, assistant warden at Lowell Correctional Institution in Ocala, said a year ago, the annual pay was $33,500.

FOX 35 spoke with Siter to learn more about how the raise will impact operations. 

"You’re going to hire more staff and better staff. It's going to eliminate a lot of complacency, that’s become part of our agency because of being overworked," he said.  

Lawmakers have long blamed problems in Florida prisons with the inability to recruit strong candidates due to low pay. 

In 2019, three correctional officers at Lake Correctional Institution in Clermont were arrested after cell phone video surfaced showing guards beating an inmate. Later that year, inmate Cheryl Weimar was left a quadriplegic while serving time at Lowell. The guards who were with her when she was injured are not being charged. 

"Part of the legislators budgeting this session was across the board salary increases," Rep. Anna Eskamani said. 

She said there’s still a lot of work to do in the state’s prisons like putting body cameras on officers and updating the infrastructure. 

"Seventy six percent of our prisons in Florida do not have air conditioning," she said. "Remember there are officers working in these dorms with no air conditioning."

Prison officials said they've also added retention pay and all current employees are getting a bump in their salary. 

To see a list of open positions, click here