July 11, 2014

The Speech Michael Crews Should Have Given at Yesterday's News Conference

The Lost Speech

Let me say as I stand here today, I am going to be completely truthful regarding the deaths of inmates before and since I was appointed Secretary on December 17, 2012. But first I want to apologize to the people of the great State of Florida for my mishandling of numerous investigations. While I can certainly point to people who failed in their duties, as Secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections, I alone bear the ultimate responsibility. As President Truman once said, "The Buck Stops Here."

                                                               Video by Al Diaz/Miami Herald Staff

I have made statements recently that bear no resemblance to reality. By saying, "the Department will build upon the existing training and resources staff has received to help them recognize mental illness," I gave the impression we already had systems in place. The truth is that we have no trainings for officers in how to deal with the mentally ill. While it's our policy "to de-escalate incidents without force being necessary," the reality, as you have reported, is something all together different. I vow to change these deficiencies.
I have said before that "there is not a culture of cover-up and corruption” in the DOC. I know you all don't believe it, and me repeating it endlessly won't make it so. To be clear, the DOC has engaged in a systematic cover-up of deaths in prisons around the state. The department has stalled investigations hoping they would go away. In denying access to documents or redacting them into useless gibberish, we blocked, stonewalled, and made flimsy excuses based on vague agency rules. The DOC likewise attempted to shuffle inmates around the state in a fruitless effort to keep them from you, the media. Again, I deeply apologize.

My predecessor, Joseph McDonough, was absolutely correct when he maintained that "virtually every part of the agency was tainted in some form." When he pointed to me and asked, "where has the leadership been?” I must admit that stung deeply. But he was on the money once again.

When I said that the “integrity and trust of my department is at question, and we must do more to ensure facilities are safe,” I meant it sincerely, now more than ever in light of recent revelations. Likewise, the statement, "We take any untimely death of an inmate very seriously," is one I now endorse earnestly and wholeheartedly. Inspector General Beasley said, "Transparency and accountability are critical to our mission." All these statements must have sounded like hollow dime-store sound bites considering the department was dodging every single request from the media. However, I do believe the sentiment holds true. So that the good people of Florida don't shake their heads once more saying, "All talk and no action," I want to tell you about measurable actions I am taking now.

I am not going to give you any excuse for why it took so long for me to respond to the deaths of numerous inmates these last couple of years. By way of explanation, I delegated tasks to my subordinates that I should of handled myself. It is my self-imposed duty to personally oversee, initiate, and follow through on all investigations of inmate deaths whether they are suspicious or not.

I want to apologize to investigators Aubrey P. Land, David Clark, Doug Glisson, and John Ulm for all the grief this department heaped on them for simply doing their jobs.  All of Lands' assertions in the Jordan-Aparo death were disturbing, yet completely true. It doesn't take a genius to figure out, that when guards repeatedly gassed a man until he couldn't breath and died, the guards killed him. The action I have taken is to fire the captain who gassed Jordan-Aparo and all of the COs under his command.

Anybody with a modicum of intelligence knows, that when six or seven guards do a cell extraction of one inmate and he ends up dead, the guards obviously beat him to death. I fired all the guards implicated in the two most recent deaths at Charlotte Correctional Institution.

These men did not mysteriously kill themselves - they were helped along by correctional officers. Again, it doesn't take a genius to figure out, that when guards put a man in a scalding hot shower and he died, the guards killed him. With that in mind I have fired all of the officers at Dade CI who were on the 4 to 12 shift that Saturday night, June 23rd, 2012.

I have asked Governor Scott to convene an emergency task force to temporarily assume certain duties the DOC has been unable to execute properly considering this organization is riddled with amoral, sadistic, sociopaths and the people who enable and support them. This independent task force will be given the authority to:

1.  Conduct investigations into any and all claims of abuse as described by inmates, medical and mental health staff, clergy, and even guards themselves, while maintaining the confidentiality of these whistle-blowers. Onsite investigators will be charged with cataloguing Incident Reports, Inmate Grievances, and any other documentation of abusive behavior of guards and their cover-ups. All witnesses will immediately be interviewed. Ideally, this task force would be given the power to make arrests when warranted.

2.  Collect and process all inmate grievances. This will prevent unscrupulous guards from hijacking the grievance process to cover their horrific behavior.

3.  Install, maintain, and monitor all cameras. Replace all outdated cameras and recording devices with High Definition or HD equipment. We need the latest technology to catch these guards in the act. I want every blind spot covered.

4.  Collect, disseminate, and distribute all incoming and outgoing mail. As it stands now, it has come to my attention that regular mail, and indeed legal mail, is routinely intercepted and destroyed by guards aiming to eliminate honest scrutiny of their contemptible practices.
These are just a few of the immediate actions I have undertaken to build a trustful relationship with all the citizens of Florida. They should expect no less. In the coming months, as I uncover more evidence of DOC failings, I will report tangible results to Floridians through media outlets. We cannot have one set of laws for corrections officers and one set for the rest of us.

In assessing my own behavior, I can honestly say I should be fired. I stand before you now, contrite and humbled. I'm asking for a second chance. I can now look in the mirror and see a man who has regained his integrity and moral bearing. I am determined to leave a legacy of transparency, honesty, and long lasting change. Please give me another chance - you will not regret it. 


  1. Amy McClellanJuly 11, 2014

    Very well said! You have put the words in the Secretary's mouth that we all wish had been uttered. It was so frustrating to hear him make statements that were so obviously false as though just saying them would make them true.

    1. Great comment Amy! It's time we push back against the culture of denial and obfuscation that is so rampant in our society.


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George Mallinckrodt