The Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) uses a classification system that takes into consideration many different factors in arriving at a Custody Assessment and Reclassification System (CARS) "score." This score is used to assign a person to one of five different custody levels. A second score is used to assign Internal Risk Management (IRMS) which further drives the classification and housing setting. Finally, a third score is the "housing level scoring system," which assigns individuals to one of five different housing levels. All of these systems work together in placing a person within the prison system.
How the Three Scores are Implemented
The three scores have an overlapping criteria that covers a wide array of the inmate’s current offense, sentence, prior criminal record, gang affiliation, institutional conduct, motivation, and attitudes. They are designed to classify inmates according to their risk to become a management problem and potentially be involved in serious and/or repetitive misconduct while incarcerated. They are not designed to predict risk of recidivism.
Custody Assessment and Reclassification System (CARS)
The more traditional system is known as the Custody Assessment and Reclassification System (CARS). It consists of five distinct custody levels which are defined as follows:
- Maximum: Inmates who are under a sentence of death.
- Close: Inmates who must be maintained within an armed perimeter or under direct, armed supervision when outside of a secure perimeter.
- Medium: Inmates eligible for placement at a work camp with a secure perimeter, but who are not eligible for placement in an outside work assignment without armed supervision.
- Minimum: Inmates eligible for outside work assignments, but not for placement at a community residential facility.
- Community: Inmates eligible for placement at a community residential facility.
In assigning inmates to these five custody levels, the FDC employs a process at admission that scores inmates on the following items:
1. Current offense (1-15 points)
2. Prior offenses (1-10 points)
3. Prior release from medium custody (-1 point)
4. Prior release from minimum custody (-2 points)
5. Prior release from community custody (-3 points)
6. Age 28 years or older (-1 point)
7. GED or high school diploma (-1 point)
8. Employed 6 months or more (-1 point)
9. Completed a primary program on current incarceration (-3 points)
10. Completed a secondary program on current incarceration (-1 point)
11. Inmate’s adjustment has been above satisfactory past 24 months (-6 points)
12. Inmate’s adjustment has been above satisfactory past 12 months (-4 points)
13. Inmate’s adjustment has been above satisfactory past 6 months (-2 points)
14. Inmate’s adjustment has been unsatisfactory past 6 months (2 points)
These items are then totaled and a custody level is determined by applying the following scale:
Community and minimum custody: 0-10 points
Medium custody: 11-19 points
Close custody: 20 or more points
Maximum custody: Death row
As you can see, the initial custody level is driven by the inmate’s current offense and prior convictions. Those initial points can be reduced later by positive behavior and the Florida Department of Corrections staff’s assessment of “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory” adjustment to the incarceration and inmate population.
Internal Management Score
The second system that drives the inmate’s classification and housing setting is part of the internal risk management system (IRMS). The IRMS is designed to assign each inmate into one of five internal management (or IM) categories as listed below:
IM1: Low risk
IM2: Low-Moderate risk
IM3: Moderate risk
IM4: Moderate-High risk
IM5: High risk
Placement into one of these five levels is based on an internal scoring process that reviews the inmate’s recent disciplinary report (DR) history (severity and time frames), gang activity, and certain crimes (homicide and domestic violence). There is another scoring system within the IRMS that consists of eight items, some of which are also used for establishing the CARS and IM level, but are only used to increase the inmate’s IM level. These are as follows:
1. Disciplinary history (disciplinary conduct)
2. Close management history (placements in administrative segregation)
3. Security threat group history (designated as STG)
4. Institutional adjustment history (overall adjustment or OAR score of “unsatisfactory,” “satisfactory,” or “above satisfactory” based on work, programs, and disciplinary reports)
5. Age (same as CARS)
6. Outside Influence (positive, neutral, or negative)
7. Attitude and motivation (interest in work assignments and programs)
8. Overall classification assessment score
The Housing Level System
The third and final system is also part of the IRMS, but is referred to as the housing level scoring system. It is designed to assign inmates to one of the following five housing levels based on their IM level and other characteristics noted below:
HO1 IM Level 1 and incarcerated for at least one year
HO2 IM Level 1 and incarcerated for 3-12 months
HO3 IM Level 3 escape flag, or incarcerated for less than 90 days
HO4 IM Level 4 escape flags, close management, high-severity crime
HO5 IM Level 5, death row, escape, special management
Significantly, HO5 inmates require placement in a cell, while HO4 inmates should be placed in a cell if available. HO3, HO2, and HO1 inmates are to be assigned to open-bay dorms. Of the three systems, the housing level system is the most important process for determining where an inmate is actually housed. But as shown above, it is driven by the IM system, which, in turn, is being influenced by the CARS custody system.
Classification... Going Right to the Source
The DOC must systematically proceed through its classification process and that only then will they decide on the appropriate custody level and housing level. The off-hand opinion of a Classification Officer is not an accurate substitute for that official process - one which will not begin until after an individual is sentenced.
Florida Administrative Code ss.33-601.210 sets forth the criteria and process used for the classification process. You will find that it provides for repeated assessments over time for the purpose of reclassification and a change of custody levels and housing levels. This is done to take into consideration that a person may have served a significant portion of their sentence and are close to their release date or to take into consideration completion of programs or good behavior.
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