In the United States, the correctional system is big business. The Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) operates 149 facilities statewide that collectively house approximately 98,000 inmates and employ more than20,000 people. With an annual operating budget of $2.4 billion, the FDC is the third-largest prison system in the country. [i] A portion of the FDC’s budget is used to maintain a vast system of educational and life-skills programs for inmates to support their rehabilitation. In addition to preparing inmates for their return to society, these programs create many profitable opportunities for businesses that are interested in providing goods and services to the FDC.
Prison inmates are permitted to work a number of jobs while incarcerated; typical jobs available for inmates include maintenance and essential services duties, such as laundry and cooking. As part of a partnership with Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, inmates in Florida can also be employed to manufacture vehicle identification cards. In Community Work Squads, which are run by the FDC, inmates perform services for state agencies including the Division of Forestry, as well as counties, municipalities and non-profit organizations.
The FDC also administers dog obedience programs throughout the Florida prison system. These programs pair dogs from local animal shelters with inmates, to socialize the dogs and prepare them for adoption. The program also provides special training for dogs that are selected to become service animals. Since the Dog Obedience Program was launched in 2007, more than 3,500 dogs have graduated and been adopted into homes.
Some inmates in Florida can also participate in prison farming programs to grow food for their facilities. Crops grown as part of these programs include broccoli, cabbage, cantaloupe, tomatoes and watermelon, among others. During the 2015-2016 fiscal year (FY) the FDC farming program produced more than 7,300,000 pounds of produce, with much of the food grown in the program being used to supplement inmate meals with fresh fruits and vegetables.
The educational programs administered by the Florida Department of Corrections counted 24,053 participating inmates in FY 2015-16, with 18,734 enrolled in academic programs and 5,319 enrolled in vocational programs.
Academic and vocational programs are offered to inmates to provide them with competencies and skills that are necessary for successful reintegration into general society. Educational programs provide inmates with traditional academic courses in areas including GED classes, adult basic education and literacy courses. Vocational programs vary by facility and can include a diverse selection of programs ranging from carpentry to digital design. [ii]
One of the larger facilities in the FDC system is the privately-run Blackwater River Correctional facility located in Santa Rosa. With a maximum capacity of 2,000 inmates, Blackwater River’s vocational programs cover multiple trades and unique training programs including Micro Computer Class, Desktop Publishing, CDL, Barbering, Electrical – Residential and Welding courses. [iii]
Another facility, the Sumter Correctional Institution, offers a different variety of educational programs for its population of both adult and youthful offenders. Academic programs available at Sumter Correctional Institution include GED, Personal Finance, Landscape Management, Masonry, Auto Mechanics and Consumer Electronic Servicing, among others. The basic-training courses include Basic Literacy, Employability Skills, Parenting, Personal Finance and OSHA Certification. [iv]
Procurement with the FDC
The Florida Department of Corrections, along with other Florida government entities, uses three state systems to aid in their procurement processes. All three systems are available for third-party vendors to use and are managed by the state business arm, the Florida Department of Management Services (DMS).
MyFlorida Marketplace (MFMP) is Florida’s online procurement system. It is designed to simplify the processes between vendors and the state government entities that purchase goods and services. The MFMP has been in use for more than ten years and provides a user-friendly portal for vendor activities. Through the MyFlorida Marketplace, vendors can register, receive information on upcoming bids, post information about products and services and receive purchase orders electronically.
The Vendor Bid System (VBS) allows registered vendors to access all Florida bid solicitations, including Invitations to Bid (ITB), Requests for Proposals (RFP) and Invitations to Negotiate (ITN). Additionally, vendors can view current bid advertisements such as Agency Decisions and Notices, Public Meeting Notices, Single Source purchases and Grant opportunities.
The State Term Contracts (STC) system contains State of Florida contracts for commodities and services. STC allows vendors to view existing contracts, download completed contracts and receive bulletins. Contracts contained in the STC system are executed by the State of Florida through the Department of Management Services, and are available to departments as well as other state government entities.
Vendors are required to register with the state's e-procurement systems in order to do business with the Florida Department of Corrections. The State of Florida charges a transaction fee to vendors for each purchase. Vendors interested in participating in bids exceeding $35,000 need to be registered in the Vendor Bid System. Bid advertisements are subject to change and vendors are responsible to check for future addendums, questions and/or revisions before the bid opening.
To register with the State of Florida, vendors can sign up through the state’s eProcurement system at MyFloridaMarketPlace. The following information and documentation will be needed to complete the vendor-registration process:
- Tax filing information. This includes the vendor’s business name and must appear exactly as it appears on the vendor’s1099 tax form.
- W-9.This form must be valid and on-file before applicable payments can be released. New vendors must file a W-9 with the Department of Financial Services, which can be done electronically.
- Location Information. A business name, complete address, contact person and details for sending purchase orders, payments and bills for each company location must all be provided.
- Commodity Codes. During registration, codes will be selected from a provided list for the products and/or services provided by the vendor’s company.
- State of Florida CBE (Certified Business Enterprise) information.
Contract opportunities with the Florida Department of Corrections are published regularly and cover all areas of procurement, from farm supplies, steam kettles and kitchen equipment to more needs items like soap, razors, trash containers and towels. General services including trash collection, laundry, kitchen and transportation are also needed to keep these facilities – many of which are as large as small cities – operating smoothly. [v] These service requirements, along with the many educational programs offered within the correctional system, create a variety of opportunities for vendors looking to partner with the Florida Department of Corrections.
Kevin McClintock | BidNet.com