The investigations center around state prison inmate conduct while on work details in Okaloosa County.
CRESTVIEW — Okaloosa County officials are investigating allegations that state prison inmates contracted through the Public Works Department have been behaving inappropriately on work details.
Allegations include that the inmates have been smoking cigarettes, talking on cellphones and being left unattended while working in the county.
At least one of the complaints concerned work performed at a yard next to Stillwell Park, the site of the former Garnier’s Wastewater Treatment Plant in Ocean City.
“I (have) seen an inmate on a cellphone for over 10 minutes,” said one of the emails sent to the Daily News. “I can only imagine that these inmates are given every chance to smuggle in contraband.”
County spokesman Rob Brown confirmed officials are investigating the allegations after several complaints from people detailing the alleged incidents. He said he could not elaborate on the nature, number or date of the complaints because of the investigation.
However, he did say the inmates who were the subject of the complaints were not from the county jail, but were state prison inmates doing work for the Public Works Department. They would have been supervised by state corrections employees, not county employees, he said.
“The prisoners in question are state Department of Corrections inmates, not county inmates,” Brown said.
According to Brown, Public Works has a contract with the state DOC that allows state inmates to do work for the county.
“This is a contract service issue,” Brown said. “And the personnel are not county inmates or county employees.”
A spokesperson for Florida Department of Corrections confirmed its own investigation in a statement Wednesday.
“The department takes these allegations very seriously and is undergoing a thorough investigation into these claims,” the statement read. “Inmates on work details are not permitted to be in possession of tobacco products or cellphones.”