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The Development of Florida Model Jail Standards


No jail standards exist for construction, operations or management of county jails or state prisons.


Recognition on the federal level for study, implementation of standards and funding for all aspects of law enforcement, including corrections. The federal Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 creates the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration within the U.S. Department of Justice. Among other things, their mission is to provide funding to develop standards for federal, state and local corrections.

Early 1970s

Inmates begin filing civil rights lawsuits that get the attention of the federal courts. Elected in 1970, two-term Democrat Reubin Askew supports efforts for the development and implementation of acceptable corrections standards in Florida.


The National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals is appointed by the Administrator of the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration and supported by $1.75 million in LEAA grants to formulate the first national criminal justice standards and goals for crime reduction and prevention at the state and local levels.


January, the National Advisory Commission (NAC) on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals publishes its report, “A National Strategy to Reduce Crime.” It’s the basis for all efforts to develop and implement criminal justice standards and goals. Two of the topics address the criminal justice system and corrections. These set standards for the flow of cases through each stage of the criminal justice process. A six-volume work titled, “Federal Criminal Justice, Standards and Goals,” is distributed to the states, along with federal funding via discretionary grants to study, edit and implement acceptable standards. The Florida Division of Corrections convenes a special task force to develop an official response to the work of the NAC.

November 27, Governor Askew issues Executive Order 73-73 by which the state supervisory board was changed from the Governor’s Council on Criminal Justice to the Governor’s Council on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals (GCCJ/SG). Staff support is housed within the Florida Division of State Planning, Bureau of Criminal Justice Planning and Assistance in Tallahassee. He also establishes the “Correctional Standards Council” to develop standards and training for corrections personnel. The group develops curriculum and launches 20 training academies to conduct the certification programs, provided through 18 community colleges and two vocational-technical schools. The Council is administratively assigned to the Florida Department of Corrections and the majority of the appointments are ex-officio. Members consist of state level executives, i.e., Secretary of the Department of Corrections and the Florida Attorney General. Other members are local jail administrators, criminal justice educators and one member is an at-large participant.

The first approved basic course curriculum for Corrections consists of a minimum of 160 contact hours of instruction. The curriculum is heavily geared towards behavioral types of training, legal liability, and the responsibilities of a corrections officer. Some academies or agencies eventually add additional hours by expanding subject matter and adding topics.


September 1, the preliminary report is delivered. A research and evaluation program for analyzing the proposed standards is developed and implemented.

State regulation of county jails begins.

January 3, the preliminary minimum standards and goals report is delivered to local planning units for their review and comment, due July 31, 1975. The state planning agency requests a 90-day extension of the grant from the LEAA to allow more thorough review of the recommended standards by local planning units.


January 3, the preliminary minimum standards and goals report is delivered to local planning units for their review and comment, due July 31, 1975. The state planning agency requests a 90-day extension of the grant from the LEAA to allow more thorough review of the recommended standards by local planning units.

Report titled “Criminal Justice Standards and Goals for Florida – A Case Study” is released by the Stanford Research Institute. It states the Florida has progressed further in the standards and goals development process than most other states in criminal justice standards and goals. Largely due to excellent pre-planning.



After two years of reviewing and selecting objectives set by the National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals – and developing many additional recommendations – the Governor’s Task Force produces a single volume encompassing all results of the efforts entitled, “Florida Criminal Justice Standards and Goals.” This document is distributed throughout Florida’s criminal justice system. Discretionary funds are made available to local governments as an avenue for implementation of the new standards and goals.

Federal court case Costello v. Wainwright is filed and takes 20 years to resolve. The class action suit alleges that inmates currently incarcerated within the state Prison System are not receiving constitutional benefits guaranteed under the 8th and 14th Amendments. Originally filed based upon medical issues, other conditions were added, including housing standards, food standards, requirement for regular outdoor recreation, access to courts, access to programs and general living conditions. As a result, new standards are developed based upon the constitutional guarantee to be enjoyed by all citizens and the prisons begin to be inspected on a regular basis.

July 1, 1976

The date that all correctional personnel are required to be state certified and, if not, they must be discharged. Following a class-action suit filed by a group of officers that alleges when they were hired certification was not a condition of employment, which results in no discharges.


Former state Senator Bob Graham wins election as Florida’s 38th Governor; he’s elected to a second term in 1982. He works closely with sheriffs to ease jail overcrowding and work out funding issues.


Lawsuit titled Arias v. Wainwright is filed, which addresses the same issues as Costello v. Wainwright, but within the county jail system. It becomes the impetus for changing the standards and inspection process. Standards are upgraded to follow existing federal and appellate case law, professional standards and accepted corrections practices. In addition, the inspection and compliance monitoring processes are strengthened. Inspection reports, previously only three pages, are now 50 pages. These documents become part of the “Administrative Rules and Regulations for Local Detention Facilities,” and are inserted in the Florida Department of Corrections Rules, identified as: Section 33-8. They are the newly established rules and regulations for county jails in Florida. Under the new rules, the Department of Corrections is mandated to conduct regular inspections of all of Florida’s county jails and any existing municipal jails.

1981 to 1991

The Florida sheriffs work closely with the Florida Division of Corrections and other agencies to improve county jails. Over a span of 10 years, 60 of the 67 counties build new jails or substantially increase the number of available beds. All counties complete renovations to meet fire code and make additional physical plant improvements for better management.


The Florida sheriffs are invited to participate in a series of workshops with the Department of Corrections and other agencies to write rules which meet minimum constitutional standards. Sheriffs and jail administrators rely on FSA as a “clearinghouse” in which to submit suggestions for change and revision to the jail rules.

Contact hours for corrections officer training are doubled. The curriculum requires 320 hours of training in the basic academy. (In the years since this adjustment, many more changes and additions have occurred – today, the average training curriculum is well over 600 hours.)


The Correctional Standards Council is abolished and responsibility of conducting the certification process for Corrections Officers is assigned to the Police Standards Commission, an independently-appointed body staffed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The name is later changed to the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission, which today is responsible for certification for both Corrections and Law-Enforcement Personnel.


The first meeting of the Florida Jail Administrators Association occurs in early June, an organization aimed at making Florida’s jails the best in the nation. The idea of forming the organization of jail administrators had started with the Florida Sheriffs Association. In 1984, it received an official endorsement by FSA. The Florida Jail Administrators Association is organized, through encouragement and assistance from FSA.


At the request of Florida Association of Counties, Florida Department of Corrections and the Florida Sheriffs Association, Legislature calls for a joint study conducted by the criminal justice consulting firm, Rosazza Associates, Inc. of Colorado Springs, CO, which results in a work titled, “Report of a Study of Florida Jail Standards Chapter 33-8, Florida Administrative Code.” It covers three activities: reviewing the inspection process to determine if the regulatory function should remain under the Department of Corrections, comparing Chapter 33-8 to standards in other states and reviewing contents of Chapter 33-8 to determine if they represent and are consistent with constitutional minima and good correctional practices as determined by federal and state appellate courts and criminal justice associations. While the study said the first two were OK, it cites inconsistencies in application of the standards and reports a perceived unfairness in the standards enforcement process. The biggest problem is that the jail inspections system involves a state regulatory body with inadequate input from those being regulated.


Following its emphasis on being leaders of minimum standards, the Florida Sheriffs Association helps launch the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation (CFA). The program is administered by an independent commission. The seed for the commission was planted with a memo by Florida Sheriffs Association Executive Director Buddy Phillips.

Mid 1990s

The Florida sheriffs and county administrators initiate an effort to remove the jail inspection function from the Florida Department of Corrections, citing many of the same issues as the 1991 report. The groups organize a committee to hold public hearings throughout the state and study the concept. Citizens are invited to testify and corrections professionals also offer testimony. The committee makes a unanimous decision to eliminate the Florida Department of Corrections from their jurisdiction over the operation of local jails.


As a result, the FSA-County Administrators committee drafts a new document to take the place of Administrative Rule 33-8, titled, “The Florida Model Jail Standards.” Fashioned after 33-8, it has a few minor changes. The Florida Sheriffs Association and Florida Association of Counties work together with legislators to get a bill passed in the 1996 legislature that eliminates state-level jail inspections for county facilities – returning local control to the jail system.

By October 1, 1996 (and with each subsequent revision), each sheriff or chief correctional officer must adopt, at minimum, the model standards as outlined by the committee.

It is now up to the individual Sheriffs’ Offices to enforce their own management priorities and practices within the county jail. The only exception is that the county Health Departments come in and inspect food services as well as medical services. They also have responsibility to inspect for vermin.

The Model Jail Standards group develops a system for teams to enter jails and conduct inspections using the newly drafted standards. The Inspection teams are primarily made up of staff members from neighboring local jails who have participated in a certification process offered through the Florida Sheriffs Association, making them certified Florida Jail Inspectors. This system is still in operation today. Once certified, the individual is qualified to serve as an Inspector for a period of four years. When the certification expires, the individual may enroll in a re-certification course.


Modeled after the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation (CFA), the Florida Corrections Accreditation Commission is formed in February. The purpose of the 11-member body is to develop standards for the accreditation of local jail facilities. The process allows for an independent body to evaluate operations of a local jail facility, taking the Florida Model Jail Standards to the next level. It begins with a 3-day “mock evaluation” to assist the jail in preparation for a formal on-site evaluation. Once all of the requirements have been met, the facility receives a certificate of accreditation, which is recognized for three years. At that time, the facility may request re-accreditation status, beginning the process over again.

The advantage of accreditation over the general Florida Model Jail Standards is that jails get more input and views from their peers to make positive improvements. It also leaves room for open dialogue and promotes positive networking between jail professionals.

Another benefit is that it enforces practices that minimize exposure to liability issues. The accreditation standards, which were derived from the Model Jail Standards, have been repeatedly tested in the court system and have borrowed “best practices” from other jurisdictions as well.

2000 to present

The local control system devised in 1996 has proven its worth. The Florida Model Jail Standards Working Group continues to meet quarterly to work through management issues as they develop. Meetings are publicly noticed and held at a central location within the state. Minutes are posted on the Florida Sheriffs Association website, along with a list of more than 350 certified jail inspectors.


Effective July 1, 2022, SB 1236 by Senator Shev Jones and Representative James Bush will strengthen the current Florida Model Jail Standards and ensure that all jails, regardless of who runs them, are held to the same high standards.  Under the law, all county-level jails are required to undergo two separate inspections each year, one of which must be unannounced and will be geared specifically to identifying any serious level violations. The law also includes financial penalties for jails that are out of compliance following inspections and ensures that whoever oversees the jail can be held financially accountable if they refuse an inspection. SB 1236 also establishes within statute the Florida Model Jail Standards Working Group as the entity responsible for developing and maintaining model standards for county and municipal detention facilities, and specifies the following seven members to be included in the FMJS Working Group:

  • Three currently elected sheriffs appointed by the FSA
  • A Florida‐licensed physician with at least two years of experience in correctional health care appointed by the Florida Sheriffs Association
  • A currently elected county commissioner appointed by the Florida Association of Counties
  • An experienced jail administrator of a Florida county jail operated by a county, appointed by the Florida Association of Counties
  • A Florida‐licensed psychiatrist with at least two years of experience in correctional psychiatry, appointed by the Florida Association of Counties