TALLAHASSEE — For the third time in less than two years, Gov. Rick Scott has hired a new leader to run the nation's third-largest prison system.
Scott's office confirmed Sunday that he has chosen Mike Crews, a career law enforcement officer, as secretary of the Department of Corrections. An official announcement will be made today.
Crews has been the agency's deputy secretary for the past year and will succeed Ken Tucker, whose last official day on the job is Dec. 28. His appointment is subject to confirmation by the state Senate.
Tucker recruited Crews to join him when he was hired in August 2011. Both men held senior-level jobs at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Crews becomes the sixth man in the past six years to head the prison system, an agency long plagued by high turnover at the top and rocked by a major scandal in 2006.
Crews, 51, a native of Marianna in Florida's Panhandle, earns $120,000 a year as deputy secretary of corrections.
He began his career in 1984 as a correctional officer. He soon moved to FDLE, where he worked for 24 years before returning to the prison system a year ago as deputy secretary.
Crews is a graduate of Marianna High School and George Wallace Community College in Dothan, Ala., and obtained a bachelor's degree in criminology from Florida State University in 1983. His wife, Teri, is a senior manager in the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. The couple has two daughters.
Scott had high hopes for the Florida prison system, but things haven't gone as planned.
After a nationwide search, he chose a former Indiana corrections director, Ed Buss, who was forced to resign after eight months on the job following clashes with Scott's office over contracts and other issues. T
hen came Tucker, who acted as more of a caretaker because he long ago planned to retire in March 2013 under a deferred retirement option program, known as DROP, for state employees.
Crews will take charge at a time when a state court has just dealt the agency a major setback by striking down the planned outsourcing of all inmate health care services in most of the state. The agency is appealing that decision.
In addition, Crews' former employer, FDLE, is investigating the possible use of excessive force at Union Correctional Institution in Raiford following the death of an inmate. Eleven prison system employees remain on paid leave because of the probe, which began in October.
Florida's prison system has an annual budget of more than $2 billion, more than 20,000 employees and more than 100,000 inmates, including 402 on death row.
Two weeks ago, Crews outlined the prison system's spending priorities in testimony before a legislative committee, where some senators prematurely addressed him as "Mr. Secretary."
Crews made a pitch for a 3.6 percent increase in the agency's budget, including more money for correctional officers and replacement vans and buses to transport inmates to court and between prisons.