Recently I received calls to speak out against the appointment of as secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections. I can only presume that I was contacted because of how often our firm sues the Department in high-profile cases.
I assume the thought was that I would undoubtedly take the position that Dixon was a poor choice because of our adversarial relationship with the Department. Having had some time to consider these requests, I believe this is the best way for adversaries of the Department, like us, to respond.
First, we have represented dozens of inmates and former employees of the Department. We have seen every issue the Department has faced over the past decade, including issues and liabilities the Department or its staff and contractors have caused at the expense of employees and inmates.
Since Mark Inch became Secretary, a strategic choice by Gov. DeSantis, the Department has improved in many ways. For example, generally speaking, bad or rogue employees are no longer protected. Instead, they are swiftly terminated.
That’s not to say mistakes are not made, but more improvements have been made in the past few years than there have been mistakes. Inch made strategic choices as Secretary to improve the Department, such as bringing on the Department’s current general counsel, who manages probably one of the best general counsel offices in all of state government.
The percentage of mistakes has undoubtedly decreased since his hiring. But most importantly, if Secretary Inch has to go, there is no better person to lead the Department than Ricky Dixon, formerly Inch’s second in command. (Inch’s sudden retirement was announced last month.)
Dixon’s career has been matched by very few. He began as a correctional officer at Lancaster Correctional Institution in Trenton in 1996, working his way up to the rank of Colonel at Florida State Prison in Raiford, according to his online bio.
He’s also been Assistant Warden at Martin and Okeechobee Correctional Institutions and was later promoted to Warden at three other prisons before becoming Regional Director of Institutions, overseeing approximately one-third of Florida’s prisons, the bio says.
The only people who can really address the problems at the Department are people like Dixon who not only are aware of the problems, but understand what needs to be done to fix them.
Ricky Dixon has earned the ability to lead the Department, and although we will continue to be adversarial to the Department, people should be comforted knowing that someone like Dixon is willing to serve the State of Florida in this new role and take on the challenges that the Department still faces.
Ryan Andrews is a Tallahassee trial attorney who represents Department of Corrections employees and inmates in civil rights and disability discrimination litigation.
December 5, 2021