March 23, 2017

Inmate who exposed prison scalding death feared investigation would be whitewashed

 


Over the past four years, there is probably no one who fought harder for justice for Darren Rainey than Harold Hempstead.

Hempstead was shipped to a prison in Tennessee abruptly last Friday, guaranteeing that he would not be able to respond to the Miami-Dade state attorney’s decision — released later that same day — clearing corrections officers in Rainey’s June 23, 2012, death at Dade Correctional Institution.

The state attorney’s close-out memo took direct aim at Hempstead’s credibility, devoting eight pages to debunking his allegation that Rainey, who suffered from mental illness, had been forced into a specially rigged shower by corrections officers who had been using scalding showers to punish inmates for bad behavior. Story here. 

March 17, 2017

Prosecutors conclude after two-year probe: no crime was committed in Darren Rainey scalding death

Raineyvia @JKnipeBrown

The corrections officers who locked a schizophrenic man in a shower for nearly two hours — a shower that some inmates say was used as a means to punish unruly prisoners with blistering hot water — committed no crime, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle announced Friday.

The state attorney’s two-year investigation into the June 23, 2012, death of Darren Rainey at Dade Correctional Institution concluded that the officers — Sgt. John Fan Fan, Cornelius Thompson, Ronald Clarke and Edwina Williams — did not act with premeditation, malice, recklessness, ill-will, hatred or evil intent when they herded Rainey into the shower.

“The shower was itself neither dangerous nor unsafe,’’ the report concluded. “The evidence does not show that Rainey’s well-being was grossly disregarded by the correctional staff.’’ Story here.

 

February 26, 2017

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. 

January 13, 2017

Use of force in Florida's prisons continued to rise to record highs, stats show. Here's 2 reasons why

Use of Force graphicVia @Jknipebrown

Violence in Florida’s state prisons continues to escalate as the use of force by corrections officers soared to an eight-year high in 2015-2016, newly released state figures show.

Use of force topped 7,300 incidents in the fiscal year ending June 30, the highest number of incidents since 2007-08. Inmate deaths in calendar year 2016 also rose slightly — from 354 to 366 — and remain at an all-time high. Murders and inmate-on-inmate assaults have more than doubled in the past six years, state records reveal.

Julie Jones, who took charge of the beleaguered prison system two years ago this month, said the proliferation of inmate gangs and the fact that nearly half of the 

Violence in Florida’s state prisons continues to escalate as the use of force by corrections officers soared to an eight-year high in 2015-2016, newly released state figures show.

Use of force topped 7,300 incidents in the fiscal year ending June 30, the highest number of incidents since 2007-08. Inmate deaths in calendar year 2016 also rose slightly — from 354 to 366 — and remain at an all-time high. Murders and inmate-on-inmate assaults have more than doubled in the past six years, state records reveal.

ulie Jones, who took charge of the beleaguered prison system two years ago this month, said the proliferation of inmate gangs and the fact that nearly half of the state’s corrections officers have less than two years of experience contributed to the uptick in violence.

 “I have inexperienced officers supervising inexperienced officers — plus a 41 percent increase in the gang population,” Jones said.

The department also continues to struggle with how to house a growing number of inmates with mental illness — and how to better train officers to deal with them.

“Mentally ill inmates receive more disciplinary reports, more use of force, more cell extractions and more mental health emergencies,” Jones said.

In the past decade and a half, the number of inmates with mental illness has risen 157 percent, she said. That spike has coincided with the closing of hospitals and other therapeutic facilities for the mentally ill.

The agency has been bitterly criticized by human rights groups and inmate families who allege that prisoners with mental illnesses are often abused, assaulted, neglected and even killed in the prison system.

The institutions with the most use-of-force cases are Union Correctional, Lake Correctional, Santa Rosa, Suwannee and Florida State Prison. With the exception of Florida State Prison, the other facilities all house units that treat inmates with mental illnesses.

Read more here.

 

December 22, 2016

Former prisons investigator accused of covering up abuse takes job with Leon County sheriff

Beasley

via @jknipebrown

Jeffery Beasley, who was accused of covering up and thwarting investigations into human rights abuses in the Florida prison system, has resigned, the Miami Herald has learned.

Beasley, the former inspector general for the Florida Department of Corrections, has accepted a post as chief of investigations for the Leon County Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff Walt McNeil confirmed Wednesday.

“As is often the case in state government, in particular positions, sometimes you have to carry a burden for higher levels of state government," McNeil said. “I make no excuses for him, but I believe his background and experience and the level of professionalism he displayed throughout his career speaks volumes."

McNeil said Beasley will start Jan. 3.

Beasley’s departure comes a little more than a year after he stepped down from his top cop post at the embattled state prisons agency. In October 2015, he was given a new title — director of investigations — despite months of widespread criticism and allegations that he and others in his office failed to investigate and, in some instances, even derailed cases involving the abuse and even death of prisoners in Florida prisons.

Full story here.

Photo credit: Jeffery Beasley, then-Inspector General of the Florida prison system, testified before lawmakers in 2014. The Florida Channel.

December 06, 2016

Rep. Richardson finds 'horrific' conditions at another Florida prison and against asks 'why?'

David Richardson at GadsdenWhen the inmates at Columbia Correctional Institution started shouting at him during one of his surprise prison inspections, Rep. David Richardson knew something was amiss.

“I’ve done this long enough to know adult males never want to talk to an outsider in a group setting,” said the Miami Beach Democrat.

The fear of retaliation and being singled out by gangs wasn’t enough to silence their need to complain about the problems they faced at the prison: toilets that won’t flush, no hot water, a majority of showers that didn’t work, broken heating system, cell windows jammed shut, head-splitting noise from an exhaust fan.

“The conditions were horrific — unfit for human habitation,” Richardson told the Herald/Times.

After a year focused on inspecting youth offender prisons, visiting 60 facilities and interviewing more than 225 inmates, Richardson made his first visit to Columbia Correctional on Nov. 23. As he often does, he randomly went into a couple of buildings in which inmates were arranged in quads with two-men cells. Story here. 

Photo: Earlier this year, Rep. David Richardson of Miami Beach visits a K-9 training program at Gadsden Correctional Institution, a women’s prison in North Florida. Inmates are in the background. Courtesy of David Richardson

 

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.