(WSVN) - A new policy to stop contraband from getting into Florida prisons has inmates and their families upset. And some experts even question whether it will do more harm than good. 7’s Brian Entin investigates.

There’s no denying it — there is a major contraband problem inside Florida prisons.

Weapons, drugs, cellphones.

The Department of Corrections says sometimes it’s friends and gang members sneaking the contraband in.

Other times, it’s the corrections officers.

With guns drawn, Miami-Dade Police stopped this corrections officer, suspected of bringing drugs behind bars.

Officer on bodycam: “We got a call for emergency assistance from corrections with this tag number.”

But family members of inmates say it’s not the officers getting punished for the contraband problem.

It’s them.

Brian Entin: “What do you think of this new policy?”

Denise Rock, Florida Cares Foundation: “I think it’s unfair to visitors and families and prisoners. I think it’s unfair to the public in general.”

7News has learned about a controversial new Florida Department of Corrections policy that families say will keep them from their loved ones.

It says: “To reduce familiarity with staff and contraband issues” … “inmates will not be placed in a facility which is located in the inmate’s home county.”

Department leaders believe by keeping inmates away from their home counties, there is less likelihood they’ll know the corrections officers in the prisons, and that will cut down on contraband.

But Denise Rock with prison non-profit Florida Cares says the new policy will only make the situation worse.

Denise Rock: “I think it’s important to have regular contact with your family because love heals things. Love is what does the trick. Love is what is going to get them to commit to doing the right thing.”

Miriam Cloutier says her son is proof of that.

He was convicted of aggravated battery 18 years ago.

She visits him almost every weekend in a prison near her home in Delray Beach.

And with her support, he has earned an associate degree behind bars.

Brian Entin: “If you weren’t able to visit, do you think he would have been able to do all this?”

Miriam Cloutier: “If I didn’t visit and I didn’t support him, no. I would think he would feel lost. He would give up hope. ‘Why do good if I have no support out there?'”

Almost 90 percent of inmates will eventually be released back into society, which is why experts say contact with family and friends is vital.

Denise Rock: “They need to come out knowing they have support. They need to come out having connections. The studies show that the people that are released with $50 and a bus ticket to the county where they committed their crime are re-arrested at a higher rate.”

As part of the new policy, the Florida Department of Corrections says they will move inmates to prisons closer to their homes as a reward for good behavior. But the policy is clear.

From now on, inmates will not be in their home county.


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