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Rare candor: Julie Jones talks to legislators about prison system's faults

Julie JonesIn an unprecedented moment of candor, Florida’s newly installed prisons chief told a Senate committee that private contractors have provided inadequate medical care to Florida’s inmates while crumbling infrastructure and years of staffing cuts have fostered “culture” problems in the massive agency.

Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones had intended to present the Senate Criminal Justice Committee with a variety of reforms she is proposing to the system that has seen a 13 percent increase in inmate deaths in the past year, but the committee had other ideas.

As Jones told the lawmakers about her priorities to focus on rebuilding decades-old buildings, adequately staff the agency and better handle the growing number of mentally ill inmates, committee members peppered her with questions.

“The media reports that we’ve seen are not only disquieting but disturbing to my sense of humanity,” said Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth. “Just doing those things are we going to change the culture?”

In a series of recent articles, the Miami Herald detailed the deaths of Darren Rainey, a mentally ill inmate herded into a locked, scalding-hot shower at Dade Correctional and left for two hours until he collapsed and died; Randall Jordan-Aparo, repeatedly gassed after annoying staff at Franklin Correctional by complaining he was sick; and Ricky Martin, a slightly built prisoner inexplicably bunked with a a towering predator, who rendered him bloody and brain-dead within hours.

The Herald also reported that use-of-force incidents have doubled in the prison system while the inmate population has remained stable.

The Palm Beach Post has reported in-depth on deaths linked to the quality of medical care provided by Corizon and Wexford, the companies that have lucrative contracts with the DOC.

Jones agreed with lawmakers that “Yes, we have a culture issue,” but noted that unless they restore hundreds of positions cut from the budget in the first four years of Gov. Rick Scott’s tenure, other changes might be inadequate. Read more here.

 

 

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