Although officially created by the Florida legislature in 1986, the CMA can trace its origins to a 1972 Federal lawsuit filed by Florida inmates alleging inadequate medical care and overcrowding. With twists and turns along the way, the primary responsibility of today’s CMA remains the same as it has been since 1993: the oversight and monitoring of all physical and mental health care within Florida’s prison system.
Florida inmates file federal lawsuit aimed at improving conditions in Florida prisons.
The adequacy of health care provided by the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) was formally challenged in a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida, by inmates Michael Costello and Roberto Celestineo. The complainants filed separate pro se complaints alleging prison overcrowding and inadequate physical and mental health care. The complaints were consolidated and amended to assert Eighth Amendment Violation and later expanded to represent all prisoners for a range is issues, including overcrowding, health care, food, and sanitation. Over the next 14 years, the health care within the FDC was under the direction of the Federal Court.
The Florida Legislature creates the Correctional Medical Authority
In response to ongoing legislative, gubernatorial, and judicial frustration with continued health care issues in Florida prisons, a special master and monitor, appointed by the Court to oversee monitoring of orders related to the litigation, conceptualized the idea of an independent medical authority that would perform the oversight and monitoring functions that the Court exercised. The entity was envisioned to replace the Court as the guarantor of continued compliance with the standards of physical and mental health care achieved by the Department during the litigation. All parties of the case agreed to the creation, implementation, and funding of the entity. The Florida Legislature codified the agreement in sections 945.6035 of the Florida Statutes to create the Correctional Medical Authority.
The Court relinquished its control of physical health care oversight of Florida prisons to the CMA
The creation of the CMA, with its independent board and professional staff, provided independent and objective verification of the Department’s activities and actions. Additionally, the CMA was able to immediately address potential problems in the Department’s delivery of physical and mental health care. As a result, on December 11, 1990, Judge Susan Black signed an order relinquishing the Court’s monitoring and oversight functions to the CMA.
The Florida Legislature amends and strengthens the CMA’s enacting legislation
The Florida Legislature amended and strengthened the CMA’s original enacting legislation to include language giving the CMA the authority to “assist in the delivery of health care for inmates in the Department of Corrections by assuring the adequate standards of physical and mental health care for inmates are maintained at all department institutions.” (FLA. Stat. Ch. 945.603 9Supp. 1992) Additionally, the amendment added that the Department “shall file a written corrective action plan to the CMA, and that the CMA shall monitor the Department’s implementation of corrective actions taken at each institution.”
The Court relinquished its control of mental health care oversight of Florida prisons to the CMA
The Court determined that with the CMA’s oversight, the Department had constitutionally adequate systems for the delivery of physical and mental health care in Florida prisons. After 21 years of litigation and federal oversight, Judge Susan Black signed an order on March 5, 1993, closing the lawsuit and returning control of Florida’s prison system to the State.
The Florida Legislature requires the CMA to conduct triennial surveys
Originally charged with the responsibility of surveying each State of Florida correctional institution biennially, CMA was instructed by the Legislature to perform those surveys at least once every three years.
The CMA monitors the State’s settlement agreement in the Osterback V. Moore Lawsuit
The department entered into an agreement in a lawsuit entitled Osterback v. Moore. This lawsuit involved mentally ill inmates housed in a restricted setting called “close management.” Plaintiffs argued the placement of an inmate with a mental illness in a restricted housing unit exacerbated the symptoms of the mental illness. As a result of the lawsuit, the Department entered into a settlement agreement that included a stipulation that the CMA would monitor the provisions of the agreement.
The CMA loses state funding and disbands
During the 2011 legislative session, two bills designed to repeal statutes related to the CMA and eliminate funding for the agency passed through the Florida House and Senate and were sent to the Governor for approval. Chapter 2011-69, Laws of Florida, (the 2011 General Appropriations Act), eliminated the funding and positions related to the Authority, and House Bill No. 5305 repealed the statutes related to the CMA. Governor Rick Scott vetoed House Bill No. 5305, but not the General Appropriations Act, and therefore the CMA did not have the funding to operate or perform its duties for Fiscal Year 2011-12.
The Florida Legislature Restores Funding for the CMA
At the request of the Governor, the 2012 Legislature restored CMA funding and subsequently enacted Ch. 2012-122, Laws of Florida, which reassigned, for administrative purposes, the CMA from the Department of Health to the Executive Office of the Governor. All powers, duties, functions, and administrative rules transferred from the Department of Health to the Executive Office of the Governor.
The CMA monitors the State’s settlement agreement in the Disability Rights Florida V. Jones Lawsuit
On January 31, 2018, FDC and Disability Rights Florida, Inc. (DRF), signed and submitted to the courts a Settlement Agreement regarding the provision of mental health services in FDC inpatient mental health units. Included in the agreement was a provision for compliance monitoring by the CMA.
The CMA is administratively transferred from the Executive Office of the Governor to the Department of Health
During the 2020 Legislative Session, the 2020 Legislature enacted Ch. 2020-113, Laws of Florida, amending Ch. 945.602, Florida Statutes, which provided for the CMA to be transferred, administratively, from the Executive Office of the Governor back to the Florida Department of Health. This bill was approved by the Governor and went into effect July 1, 2020.