Jail cell with the door close

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Florida prisons are cutting family visits by half because they don’t have enough guards, The Miami Herald reports.

“In spite of our diligent efforts, we are experiencing a vast increase in the amount of contraband being introduced into correctional facilities statewide, which is exacerbated by current staffing shortages,” Ricky Dixon, deputy secretary of institutions, wrote in a memo to staff and inmates on March 14.

The Florida Department of Corrections hopes to be able to perform more thorough searches on visitors under the proposal, which would reduce the influx of contraband, Michelle Glady, a FDC spokesperson, told the Herald. But inmate relatives statewide aren’t thrilled, and 100 of them made their way to Tallahassee on Tuesday to protest the proposal. If approved, the new policy will reduce weekly visits to every other week. This would make Florida the most restrictive state for inmate visits, says Florida news channel WJHG.

Kyle Williford, who was recently released from Hardee Correctional Institution following a three-year sentence and says he’s personally purchased alcohol directly from corrections officers, says the FDC has their eyes on the wrong culprits.

“My experience is the contraband at the Department of Corrections comes from staff members,” he told the Herald. “The bottom line is that Tallahassee is neglecting not only their inmates but their employees as well.”

He added, “These men and women have to watch child molesters, rapists, murderers, and they get paid as much as your average Wal-Mart employee. No one can fault them for supplementing their income, [but the policy] shows a gross ignorance.”

For many inmates, family visits are a source of solace and, sometimes, willpower.

“Say someone bumps into you in the chow hall,” Williford continued. “Are you going to hit him in the mouth for disrespecting you? No you’re not, because your daughter and your wife are coming to see you on Saturday so you swallow your pride and you finish your meal. These are everyday occurrences.”

Some family members worry their loved ones won’t receive the amount of love and reassurance they need.

“My son’s coming out within a year. He’s not violent, He needs to know that he still matters,” Lisa Teets, a mother who traveled from West Palm Beach to protest the policy, said. “This is my worse nightmare.”

Read more at The Miami Herald.

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