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State hires Miami native, a federal inspector general, as new prisons watchdog

by @JknipeBrown

A new watchdog has been hired to oversee Florida’s troubled Department of Corrections, which has been mired in lawsuits, federal probes and accusations of corruption and brutality against inmates for years.

Lester Fernandez, the assistant inspector general for the federal Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud in Washington, D.C., will start his new post on June 6. As FDC’s inspector general, he will oversee all probes into wrongdoing in the prisons. He will also work with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which investigates in-custody deaths, and the U.S. Department of Justice, which has been looking into whether the agency has a pattern or practice of civil rights violations.

Last year, FDC had more than 350 prisoner deaths, a record. Incidents involving use of force, between officers and inmates, has more than doubled in the past five years, and human rights groups contend the agency has committed abuses against inmates in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Story here.