Tuesday, 2 January 2007

Prison Workers Must Shape Up - Florida DOC - hopefully the execution doctors too ....

Published Sunday, December 31, 2006

Prison Workers Must Shape Up

Correctional officers will have to pass a fitness test to keep their jobs by 2009.

GAINESVILLE - About 19,000 Florida employees may be thinking seriously about putting physical fitness at the top of their list of New Year's resolutions.

They are Department of Corrections workers who will be expected to run a mile and a half and perform exercises under a pilot program. By 2009, physical fitness will be a requirement to keep their jobs.

In a weekly newsletter distributed Friday morning, DOC Secretary James McDonough announced that physical fitness was a critical element for correctional officers, probation officers and departmental supervisors. To retain their jobs, the employees would have to prove each year that they are physically fit enough to do their jobs.

The annual tests would include running a mile and a half, doing a certain number of push-ups and a specified number of curls, which are similar to sit-ups.

"We are doing this because I am concerned about our ability to perform our missions - to protect public safety, the safety of one another and the proper supervision of those in our care," McDonough said.

"I want to make certain that we are prepared to do what we may have to do without hurting ourselves or allowing another to get hurt," he said.

Over the past three months a study group has been working on proposed standards based on age and gender. For example, male employees between the ages of 30 to 39 would be required to complete the mile and a half run in 15 minutes and 30 seconds while female employees of the same age would need to make the run in 17 minutes and 15 seconds. Males 40 to 49 years old would need to complete the run in 16 minutes and 30 seconds; women in 18 minutes 15 seconds.

James Baiardi, president of the Police Benevolent Association, a union representing most of the state correctional officers, said he was "not openly against this, I just don't think it is a good idea."

Baiardi said he was unconvinced of the need for fitness tests.

"I don't think there are many documented cases of people coming to help who couldn't physically help another officer," Baiardi said. "And, sometimes an officer is outnumbered 40 to one. Where does being able to do a certain number of push-ups make a difference in that?"

McDonough said the notion of physicality has long been a part of the prison system, but was displaced in recent years under the administration of his fired predecessor, James Crosby.

Crosby is awaiting sentence in federal court since pleading guilty to taking kickbacks from a prison vendor. During Crosby's administration a steroid ring was uncovered involving softball-playing correctional officers.

"A year ago - and for the preceding 24 to 36 months - largeness and steroids and prowess with a baseball bat and macho and raucous behavior, in the minds of some, proved fitness for the job. That was the wrong way to go, not the least of which was the outcome of all that," McDonough said. "What we are striving for are more rational goals."

Karen Voyles writes for The Gainesville Sun.

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