McDonough to remain in charge of prisons

Published January 11, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - Gov. Charlie Crist said Wednesday he is keeping Jim McDonough in charge of the state's prisons.

McDonough, 60, then the state's drug czar, was named last February by Gov. Jeb Bush to replace James Crosby at the scandal-ridden Corrections Department after Crosby became enmeshed in an investigation of criminal activity within the prison system. Crosby later pleaded guilty to taking kickbacks from a vendor.

"I will do my best to fulfill our mission, which at the foremost is public safety," McDonough said Wednesday.

His 11-month tenure has not been without controversy. Last week, he announced a plan to get about 19,000 agency employees into better physical shape and require them, starting in 2009, to prove their fitness or lose their jobs. The Police Benevolent Association, a law enforcement union representing 30,000 members, called it a morale buster.

Crist, however, said he spoke to some of the union officials before announcing his decision to keep McDonough.

"I'd say the relationship is a work in progress between us and McDonough," David Murrell, the association's executive director, said later.

Murrell added that he has a meeting scheduled next week with McDonough.

McDonough, a graduate of both Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the U.S. Military Academy who had a 27-year Army career and attained the rank of colonel, is also working on a policy that would let corrections employees have facial hair if it is well-trimmed.

"He takes his mission seriously," said Crist, who first got to know McDonough when they worked together on the state's drug policy. "I would like to afford him the opportunity to see it through to completion."