The new DOC


Published: Tuesday, January 9, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 9, 2007 at 12:32 a.m.

The best decision Jeb Bush made in eight years in office was to put James McDonough, a career military officer, in charge of the Department of Corrections. McDonough replaced a "corrections professional" who was as corrupt as he was incompetent and then undertook a much needed housecleaning at DOC. He fired employees who were hired and promoted more for their connections (or even worse, their softball prowess) than their qualifications. He introduced new performance and ethical conduct expectations to the department.

In short, he turned a scandal-ridden prison system run by "good old boys" into an organization that rewards merit and values training and professionalism. If there is one holdover from the Bush administration that Gov. Charlie Crist should want to keep on the job, it's McDonough. And McDonough last week said "I would like to stay if the governor would like me to stay and if I can continue to serve in a capacity that serves the people of Florida."

But Crist has been silent on his plans for DOC. That may be because the union that represents correctional officers has a lot of political influence in Tallahassee and reportedly opposes McDonough's reappointment. Among other things, the Police Benevolent Association is apparently not enamored with a new drug-testing program and physical fitness requirements for correctional officers. "There's a feeling that he's pretty heavy-handed," PBA Executive Director David Murrell told The Sun's Tallahassee bureau last week. "He thinks it's the Army. It's not the Army."

No, it's not the Army. But the DOC is also not the scandalous mess it was before McDonough brought his "heavy-handed," military sense of order and discipline to the job. We would be astonished, and disappointed, if Gov. Crist opts to let McDonough go.

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