December 02, 2016

Jeff Beasley keeps prison job while whistleblowers create company to 'be a thorn in their side'

Jeffery_BeasleyThe state takes no blame for what former Florida Department of Corrections inspector general Jeffery Beasley has done, but it is paying $800,000 to end a retaliation lawsuit brought by his former employees and is keeping him in a newly created job that pays $116,500 annually.

As “director of intelligence” at the state’s prison agency, Beasley admits that his position was created after the whistleblowers filed their lawsuits and he left the inspector general’s post last fall, according to his deposition in another pending retaliation lawsuit reviewed by the Herald/Times.

He is in charge of the department’s K-9 unit and the security threat group, among other things. He draws “special risk” designation as a law enforcement officer, allowing him to collect a higher pension when he retires. His replacement as inspector general, Lester Fernandez, makes $115,000.

Meanwhile, the three former inspectors, Doug Glisson, John Ulm and Aubrey Land who left FDC this week after it agreed to pay them each $133,000 to resolve their claims against Beasley, are forming their own consulting business, “Capitol Connections Consultants.” They will offer to serve as expert witnesses in future lawsuits against the state and advise other law enforcement officers when their employer has violated the Officers’ Bill of Rights.

“We will be a thorn in their side,” said Glisson on Friday. “We’re not here to protect dirty officers, but if you have someone like us who was getting nailed, we can help. It’s not going to be a full-time job.” Story here. 

 

November 29, 2016

Fourth prison riot this year breaks out at troubled Franklin Correctional Institution in North Florida

Franklin CorrectionalThe Florida Department of Corrections was forced to quell yet another disturbance at a North Florida prison early Tuesday, deploying a response team to quiet an inmate unrest for the fourth time this year at Franklin Correctional Institution.

"The situation was quickly and effectively resolved and resulted in no injuries to staff or inmates,'' said Michelle Glady, spokesperson for the agency. "At this time the facility remains on lockdown. The Department is currently assessing the facility for damages and has placed involved inmates in confinement pending disciplinary review."

In June, inmates jumped a corrections officer and took over two dorms for several hours during a late-night riot at the facility in rural Carrabelle.  During that riot, about 300 inmates stormed two housing dorms, using makeshift tools to drill through a concrete and brick wall and smash bathroom fixtures, TVs, ceiling fans, toilets and sprinkler systems, destroying nearly everything in the dorms, officials with the Florida Department of Corrections and sources confirmed at the time.

The incidents are constant reminders that Franklin and other facilities are dangerously understaffed. Yet, the unrest comes on the same day a settlement was announced in a lawsuit in which three prison inspectors accused the agency of covering up an abusive inmate death in 2010 at Franklin Correctional. The officers filed the lawsuit alleging that they had been systematically retaliated against for attempting to bring their claims forward. 

Rather than investigating the claims, FDC officials demoted the whistleblowers and filed a series of internal investigations against them. The three inspectors filed a retaliation lawsuit and, a year ago, agreed to drop the charges in exchange for the state finding them different jobs at another state agency and releasing them from the investigations. They only cost to the state would have been the attorneys fees of about $25,000, said Ryan Andrews, their lawyer. FDC refused.

Tuesday, a settlement agreement was filed in Leon County Circuit Court showing the state agreed to pay the whistleblowers $800,000 to end the lawsuit.

Glady said that the portion of the settlement payment not covered by the agency's liability insurance will come from the agency’s administrative trust fund: $320,209.66.

Florida prison agency ends years of denials and agrees to pay whistleblowers $800,000

Julie JonesYears after three prison investigators came forward with evidence of inmate abuse and cover-ups at the Florida Department of Corrections, the state has agreed to settle a retaliation lawsuit — and pay them $800,000.

The prison agency also agreed to end lawsuits by three other department whistleblowers, closing a chapter in what has been one of the most tumultuous eras in state prison history.

The agreement, filed in Leon County Circuit Court on Tuesday, exonerates investigators of the FDC inspector general’s office, Doug Glisson, Aubrey Land and John Ulm, after they came forward with evidence that they believed an inmate at Franklin Correctional Institution, Randall Jordan-Aparo, had been gassed to death by prison guards. The Aparo’s family has filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against the state.

The agency does not agree to the allegations but does agree to pay Glisson, Land and Ulm each $133,333 and drop all pending internal investigations. Glisson and Ulm will also receive more than $4,100 in wages lost from a recent demotion, in return for agreeing to leave the agency.

The settlement also ends the retaliation claims by employees James Padgett, David Clark and Christina Bullins, who each will receive $50,000. The attorneys who handled the case, Steven R. Andrews and his son, Ryan Andrews, will be paid $250,000.

“They didn’t offer up this settlement because they liked us,” said Glisson, a supervisor whose last day at the agency he has worked at for more than 20 years will be Wednesday. “They really didn’t want this to go to a jury trial.” Story here. 

Photo: Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones 

 

September 19, 2016

Family of inmate who died 6 years ago after being gassed, beaten sues state -- which is still investigating

Jordanaparovia @JknipeBrown

A 27-year-old prisoner who died at Franklin Correctional Institution in 2010 was killed by corrections officers who tortured, gassed and beat him, according to a 33-page federal civil rights lawsuit filed Monday.

The inmate, Randall Jordan-Aparo, suffered from a genetic blood disorder that had flared up in the months before his death. As his condition worsened, the lawsuit alleges, corrections officers, doctors and nurses at the prison denied him medical attention, and when he complained, they forced him into an isolation cell and gassed him until he could no longer breathe.

The inmate, who was serving time for credit card fraud, was found dead in his cell, naked except for his boxer shorts, in March 2010. Photographs of his body show him face-down next to his Bible. His hair, legs, toes and mouth — as well as the walls of the cell — were coated with orange residue, a byproduct of the chemical spray. Story here. 

September 13, 2016

Inmate uprisings continue with Columbia Correctional the latest to go on lockdown

via @JknipeBrown
Prison photo 2Florida’s state prisons have resumed “normal” operations despite a disturbance Monday night at Columbia Correctional, the fifth inmate uprising in less than a week, officials said.

About 40 inmates engaged in civil disobedience by refusing officers’ orders and taking control of at least one dorm Monday evening. Prison spokeswoman Michelle Glady said there were no injuries and the incident was brought under control quickly.

Columbia — one of the state’s most violent prisons — remained on lockdown Tuesday. Gang violence has festered in the prison, located in Lake City, in North Central Florida. A corrections officer was stabbed in April.

Since Thursday, inmates have caused trouble at four other prisons, all in the state’s Panhandle: Gulf Annex Correctional, Mayo Correctional and Jackson Correctional. The most serious melee was at Holmes Correctional, where 400 inmates destroyed several dorms on Thursday.

Julie Jones, secretary for the Florida Department of Corrections, said the disturbances were “quickly and effectively’’ addressed, and she praised her staff and corrections officers for their response.


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/special-reports/florida-prisons/article101560472.html#storylink=cpy

August 29, 2016

Appeals court overturns ruling, says prison agency doesn't need to specify why it's redacting documents

Prison Beyond Punishment sig

A Florida appellate court has ruled that the Florida Department of Corrections did not violate the public records law when it redacted prison documents and inmate records sought by the Miami Herald but failed to specify the legal authority for each redaction.

In an unanimous opinion, a three-judge panel of the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee concluded that Florida's Sunshine laws do not require the agency to explain each redaction when it responded to the Herald's public record requests in 2014 and 2015. 

However, Judge Stephanie Ray acknowledged in a concurring opinion that an agency's use of exemptions could render the state's Sunshine law "meaningless." She said the Monday ruling should "not foreclose a future challenge" to an agency's use of the public records act.  

The dispute arose after the Miami Herald sought numerous documents from FDC as part of its extensive investigation, Beyond Punishment, that uncovered details about inmate deaths and allegations of abuse and cover-up at the state's prison agency. The department provided many documents with numerous sections blacked out, and attached a standard form with checkboxes identifying five statutory citations it claimed justified the exemptions. 

The process did not allow the Herald to validate whether the redactions were appropriate because the agency did not specify which exemption applied to which redaction. The Herald filed a complaint for injunctive and mandamus relief pursuant to chapter 119, Florida's public records law, and asked a court to compel FDC to provide the information.

Leon County Circuit Court Judge George S. Reynolds initially ruled against the Herald last year, suggesting that "a requestor of public records is entitled to the specific exemptions relied upon for each redaction in every circumstance."

But, four months later, Reynolds reconsidered his initial ruling and ordered the agency to cite the exemption for each specific redaction.

"What I am requiring is that there be some type of footnoting,” Reynolds said at the hearing. He suggested each redaction be listed with numbers corresponding to a “key” or index of the statutory exemptions relied upon by the agency for each record at issue.

The agency appealed, arguing that the requirement exceeded the requirements in the law. By reversing the ruling, the court leaves leaves unsettled how far an agency can go to make redactions to a public record. 

State law requires that state and local governments provide a record-by-record identification of claimed exemptions, and, upon request, state in writing and "with particularity" the reasons it concluded a record is exempt.

"As DOC correctly argues, the plain language of this statute does not require the agency to state the basis of the exemption applicable to 'each redaction,'" wrote Judge T. Kent Wetherell in the ruling. "Instead, the statute simply requires the agency to “state the basis of the exemption that [the agency] contends is applicable to the record” and to provide a statutory citation for the exemption."

In her concurring opinion, however, Judge Ray suggests that there may be room for improvement in the law and for a potential legal challenge.

"Given that the undisputed purpose of the Public Records Act is to promote government transparency, Appellees’ concern is significant,'' she wrote. "However, this Court’s opinion should not foreclose a future challenge to an agency’s method of identifying the basis of claimed exemptions in a public records response if it essentially renders the mandates of Florida’s Public Records Act meaningless."  Download DCA ruling on FDC redactions

 

July 07, 2016

Fearing a 'ticking time bomb,' corrections officers plea for a special session to deal with short-staffing

via @Jknipebrown

Calling Florida prisons “a ticking time bomb,” members of the union representing state corrections officers called on Gov. Rick Scott and lawmakers on Wednesday to convene an emergency legislative session to address the state’s prison crisis.

One recent riot, several inmate uprisings, and widespread attacks on officers and inmates have alarmed members of Teamsters 2011, the union representing the state’s 2,000 corrections and probation officers.

“We recognize that this request is extraordinary, however under the present circumstances, it is necessary to prevent imminent harm and necessary for the safety of our officers,” wrote Kimberly Schultz, an elected delegate and candidate for president of the union, wrote to the governor, Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli.

The odds of lawmakers agreeing to a special session are slim. Several Orlando-based Democrats have spent the past two weeks trying to convene a special session on gun control reforms but were unsuccessful, falling 46 votes short — with lawmakers divided along party lines.

Gardiner had not yet seen Schultz’s letter, and the Miami Herald was unsuccessful in reaching Crisafulli. Both lawmakers are Republicans. Story here. 

June 28, 2016

Legislator visits prison, finds kids forced to dump food trays in the trash -- for talking

Richardson and ReidIt was lunch time and the newly arrived teenage inmates had just filed into the mess hall at Sumter Correctional Institution, sat down with their lunch trays and began eating. Some of them started talking — just like the inmates who’d been there longer were doing at nearby tables.

But their supervising officer considered the newbies disruptive. He warned them. They continued. Within minutes, Officer Alexander was ordering the nearly 15 inmates to stand up and dump their lunch trays in the trash. He then ordered them back into their dorm.

That’s where state Rep. David Richardson, a Democrat from Miami Beach, found them. 

Richardson was at the Central Florida prison in Bushnell on one of his routine visits to the state’s largest male youthful offender programs. Richardson randomly selected six of the 14- to 17-year-olds to speak with him and, one-by-one, started asking questions.

“How’s your day going?” Richardson said he asked.

“Not very good,” was the reply. “We were just at the lunch room and a couple of people were talking and the guard told us to go and dump all our food in the trash.” All six inmates identified Alexander as responsible. The agency, citing the ongoing investigation, would not reveal Alexander’s first name or any other information about him.

Depriving inmates of food is against the law in Florida’s prisons but when it happens, it rarely gets reported. Richardson complained and FDC responded immediately. They removed Alexander from contact with the inmates who had been in prison less than three weeks. The inmates were supplied with another tray of food, and FDC opened an investigation to determine what discipline to take against Alexander. Story here. 

Photo: Rep. David Richardson visiting Suwannee Correctional Institution earlier this year. 

Panel rips prison agency for retaliating against whistleblower but says violations aren't criminal

DOC compliance reviewThe Department of Corrections wrongly turned its investigative might against one of its own — violating its own policies, stacking up allegations against a whistleblower, and spending more time focused on investigating him than they spent on probing a claim of inmate abuse, a law enforcement panel ruled late Tuesday
 
The three-member Compliance Review Panel was charged with deciding if the department was guilty of criminal misconduct for intentionally retaliating against Doug Glisson, a senior investigator at the Department of Corrections who since 2014 has accused his bosses of covering up inmate abuse and agency corruption.
 
Their ruling was that the agency had violated Glisson’s rights, breached its own protocol, allowed for harassing behavior, and failed to follow the law when his bosses subjected him to six internal affairs investigations. But, they said, the conduct was not criminal. 
 
“The panel does not believe there was overwhelming intent” that the investigator who conducted the investigation against Glisson, Brian Falstrom, intentionally violated Glisson’s rights, the panel wrote in a two-page ruling. Falstrom “did not receive adequate training or had the prior experience to conduct the internal affairs investigations into the allegations.”
 
The panel, instead, directed its blame on the department, particularly former Chief Inspector General Jeffery Beasley, Glisson’s boss who was reassigned earlier this year. 
 
Glisson and three fellow investigators claim that Beasley had dismissed their call to investigate the gassing death of inmate Randall Jordan-Aparo at Franklin Correctional Institution in 2010. They told a state Senate committee in February 2015 that Beasley had directed them to back off investigating that case and others and, a day after the committee grilled Beasley, Glisson was hit with the six internal investigations. 
 
The panel raised several concerns about the agency’s treatment of Glisson, saying it had “great concern” regarding the six internal investigations launched between August 2014 and February 2015 without notifying Glisson, then dumping them all on him on the day after the Senate hearing. Story here. 

Photo: Department of Corrections Compliance Review Hearing, Tuesday, June 28. Seated at the table from left: Attorney Steve Andrews, Marty Snow, inspector general FHSMV, David Odom, Tallahassee Police Department, David Clark, FDC inspector, David Falstrom, FDC inspector. Credit: Mary Ellen Klas

Continue reading "Panel rips prison agency for retaliating against whistleblower but says violations aren't criminal" »

June 22, 2016

Four years after brutal Florida prison death, no punishment but lack of trust, disclosure and confidence

Raineyvia JKnipeBrown

One thousand four hundred and sixty one days.

That’s how long it’s been since Darren Rainey was forced into a shower by officers at Dade Correctional Institution and left there, under a blistering spray of scalding water, for nearly two hours. It’s been four years since Rainey screamed and begged to be let out of the small stall before finally collapsing in a heap, his skin peeling.

Since Rainey’s death, it was discovered that he and other mentally ill inmates at the prison had been tortured, beaten, starved and left to sleep in their own excrement. They were doused with buckets of chemicals, over-medicated, kept in extended isolation and placed in painfully cold or blistering showers as punishment for behavior caused mostly by their own illnesses.

While Rainey’s death has led to some reforms in the treatment of the mentally ill in Florida prisons, the prison system remains dangerously understaffed and rife with violence, as evidenced by recent riots and turmoil at Franklin Correctional Institution in north-central Florida.

Details of the June 9 incident at Franklin haven’t been made public, and may never be known. The absence of transparency by the agency, critics say, has bred distrust and a lack of confidence that the prison system is truly taking the steps necessary to keep inmates, officers and the public secure. Story here.