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Private prison deprived inmates of heat and hot water for months, Richardson finds

Gadsden broken faucetThe 284 women housed in C-dorm at Gadsden Correctional Facility lived for months without hot water or heat, faced flooded bathrooms daily and endured water rations when the septic tanks were jammed with food waste.

After state Rep. David Richardson demanded action following a series of surprise visits over the past 18 months, the private prison operator that runs the facility — Management Training Corp. of Centerville, Utah — received approval from the state to repair and replace the water heater, at a cost to taxpayers of nearly $10,000. But Warden Shelly Sonberg never authorized the work.

Richardson, a Miami Beach Democrat, announced another inspection this month, this time with Chad Poppell, the head of the Department of Management Services, the state agency that oversees private prisons, and two other state legislators.

In the two days before they arrived, four work crews descended on the prison and made many of the repairs. The vice president of the private prison operator, Management Training Corp., also arrived in town to meet with state officials. The state’s chief inspector general, Melinda Miguel, dispatched inspectors to assess the safety and welfare of the inmates.

For Richardson, who has been on a one-man mission to force change in Florida’s troubled prison system, it’s another frustrating example of the failure of the state to monitor and hold accountable its prison operators.

“I’m a policymaker. I’m not a monitor. I’m not their auditor. Why is it that I’m out there fixing water heaters?” he said.

In a letter to Richardson Thursday, Poppell said he has since removed the state-paid official in charge of monitoring conditions at the prison and has also launched his own investigation. Story here. 

Photo: One of several non-working hot water faucets found by Rep. David Richardson at Gadsden Correctional Facility where women have been deprived of heat and hot water for months. 

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