Florida could become most restrictive state for inmate visits

Published: Apr. 3, 2018 at 9:50 PM CDT
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For three hours Tuesday morning, state officials listened to angry family members upset over proposed changes that would make Florida the most restrictive state in the country to visit a prison inmate.

Family visits could be cut from as much as 12 hours a weekend to as little as four hours a month.

As many as 200 people, mostly wives, girlfriends and children, showed up to express their anger over a proposed new rule that would restrict prison visitation.

Currently, families can visit as long as six hours a day on weekends and holidays. The Department of Corrections says short staffing and an increase in contraband are forcing the change, which would limit visitation to as little as two hours twice a month.

Krystal Lago of Spring Hill nearly broke down.

"My kids look forward to spending time with their father… excuse me," she said.

Sarah Chancery made the trip from Plant City.

"I think it will increase violence. I think it will not affect the proposed issues at all," Chancery said.

And a plan by the department to create video chats is raising big concerns. Many fear the video chats are the beginning of the end of in-person visits.

"We need that hug. We need that kiss. We need for our family members that's locked up to see us, hold on to us, kiss us," said Shirley Reed of Jacksonville.

The prisoners' families are expected to challenge the change if and when it is implemented.

The shortened visitation will affect most prisons in the state.

The rule also broadens the state's ability to cancel visits if institutions are seeing a spike in contraband, violence, or other factors determined by the warden.