April 29, 2015

Senate Prison Reform Bill 7020 is Dead on the Floor...

The demise of Senate Bill 7020 means business as usual for abusive guards and the administrators who cover for them. A collective sigh could be heard from those who have brutalized and killed the men and women whose care they were entrusted with. I'm so disappointed. How legislators cannot agree on an issue this pressing astonishes me. Politics I guess. At least I can look back and say I did my best to inform committee members about the problems within the FL DOC.

The latest FL DOC mortality figure is 109 deaths for the first four months of this year. At this rate, Floridians can expect to see at least 327 deaths for 2015. I believe the FL DOC is a powder keg waiting for the tiniest spark. When people have their dignity stripped from them and are dehumanized and disrespected, they will rebel. Though I hope it doesn't come to pass, I would not be surprised if prison riots break out.

George Mallinckrodt

Prison reform compromise among the dead bills on session floor

Tuesday, April 28, 2015 7:44pm
By Mary Ellen Klas and Michael Auslen
As the session melted down on Tuesday, Senate President Andy Gardiner announced that the prison reform compromise -- which featured the Senate agreeing to withdraw from its position for an independent oversight board -- was now a casualty of the impasse.
"The last three days of session, we should be negotiating that as a partner," Gardiner told the chamber after the House had adjourned three days early. Of the prison reform bill that was passed by the House last week, he said: "That bill's not going to make it."
Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, the chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, said he was satisfied to drop the compromise bill, which he had worked on with his counterpart in the House, Rep. Carolos Trujillo. The Senate had agreed to remove many of the provisions it had sought in exchange for some reforms but the additional oversight depended on the Senate president and House speaker to follow up with the creation of a joint select committee to pursue prison reform.
"There will not be a reform bill coming out,'' Evers told the Herald/Times. "But I'm sure that the Senate president will set up a committee for the oversight of the Department of Corrections."
He said that many of the changes sought by the bill can be made by rule and at the direction of the DOC secretary. "So the reforms, yes, will be made."
Gardiner told reporters that he is prepared to assign Senate staff, and the Senate Criminal Justice Committe, to continue the investigations into the troubled agency.
 "If it doesn't pass, then we will put our corrections committee on the road within a couple of weeks, and they'll do their own investigations,'' he said. "I can subpoena people. We're not done with that. It's unfortunate that the House did what they did."
Evers noted that the issue could emerge as part of a special session on the budget. 
"Am I going to reevaluate it? No,'' he said. "Because it's not going to do anything within the bill that can't be done by rule. I feel reasonably sure that the Senate president, that we will set up our own committee and we will direct it to take care of the oversight of the Department of Corrections." 

April 28, 2015

Heather Gets to Visit Her Son - Follow Up To: How the Manifestation of Mental Illness Results in a Prison Sentence and Worse

George's Note: Please check my blog entitled: How the Manifestation of Mental Illness Results in a Prison Sentence and Worse. It will provide background for Heather's visit to her son Nikko who had been in solitary for 2 years and lost 40 pounds. Please sign the Nikko Albanese Petition.

Heather's account: "Nikko looked like a Holocaust victim."

Horrifying. Standing there just skin and bones, his eyes are all dark and sunken in his face. I watched as the guards removed his shackles. He had a look of panic and confusion on his pale white face. Each time the guards came near him to unlock another lock on his shackles he would flinch.

I tapped on the glass. Nikko looked at me squinting his eyes. I was smiling and waving at him. At first there was just a blank stare. Once the guards had left the room and locked the door (size of a telephone booth), Nikko shook his head as if he had some type of recognition. There is a small opening in the glass to allow communication. You need to put your mouth right near the opening so the other person can hear you. "Nikko, Nikko! It's me Mom!" 

I was able to feed him. Extremely hungry. This is when he told me:
Nikko: I haven't been eating mom.
Heather: Yes I know. Why? Why are you not eating?
N: The food is really disgusting.
H: Yes, I know that Nikko. I know there are cockroaches in the food and sometimes the they put things in it as well. But Nikko, why are you not eating? With much shame and in a very low voice he told me.
N: I don't know.

This is when I explained to Nikko what has been happening to him for the past couple of years, what has been happening to his brain. Due to long term solitary confinement. All of that psychosis is the voices you've been hearing. Not wanting to leave your cell or your bunk for that matter. Just stopped eating. It's because parts of your brain have died.

It's not just you, it would happen to any human being subjected to such torturous conditions. I started talking about all of the research. Then I started telling him about all of the people that have suffered through the same things he has and is. His eyes  got real big.

Listening to every word I said. With comfort and much relief. At the same time, Nikko is inhaling the food, constantly looking over his shoulder. Flinching if someone passed by.

H: Nikko, what do you think of Dr. Biskey?

Nikko looked at me confused, shook his head, "NO."

H: Nikko, your doctor is Dr. Biskey?
N: I don't know who that is.
H: Nikko, who is your doctor?
N: Ummm, Dr. Greenfield?
H: You've been seen by Dr.Greenfield once or twice. When you first got here to Union CI.

Nikko shook his head yes. 

H: Nikko, how did they know you were not eating?
N: The inmates.
H: What inmates?
N: The inmates next to my cell. One of the inmates noticed my food tray. All the food was on it. He told the other inmates. They kept watching my trays. "Boy you need to eat!"
H: What did you say?
N: Nothing. I don't talk to nobody. The inmates started screaming at the guards everyday. "Boy's not eating, boy's not eating!" This went on for a long time. Yeah, I thought I was going to get in trouble. But I couldn't mom.
H: It's OK Nikko. Then what happen?
N: The inmate started screaming, "boy going to die in there, boy is going to die." Like a week and a half ago a guard took me out of cell. He weighed me.
H: Did you see the doctor then?
K: No. The guard said, "you know what's good for you, YOU going to eat!"
H: Like a threat?
N: Yeah.

I told him there is an army of people out here that care for him and are also fighting for him. He was very surprised. I asked him if he would like to receive some letters or a notes from some of the people (in his army) that really do care about him. He smiled and shook his head, yes.

I was very strong in front of Nikko. I was very specific on what I wanted him to do. I told him he needed to exercise within his cell every day, his body and his brain. He needed to eat. I would keep money in his account so he could get food from a commissary (closed management inmates are only allowed 3-4 bags of chips a week).

I'm devastated. When I was leaving, Nikko stood up. "Where are you going mom?" He had that look of fear. He looked a child. Standing there just skin and bones, his eyes are all dark and his face sunken in.

N: Are you coming back?
H: Yes! As soon as they let me! 

I put my hand on the glass. Nikko did as well. I'm so devastated. It's actually worse than I thought. He's receiving absolutely no care at all.He hasn't even had a civil conversation of any kind in years. This is the best I can do for now. I can't even reread it. I'm sure there's typos and everything, I'm sorry. I'm destroyed I haven't stopped crying and I haven't slept.

April 21, 2015

Concerns and Solutions Regarding Sexual Abuse Investigations in the Florida Department of Corrections

George's Note: I sent this off to key Senators in the Criminal Justice Committee and Representatives in the Criminal Justice Subcommittee, Judiciary Committee, and Justice Appropriations Subcommittee. 

Concerns and Solutions Regarding Sexual Abuse Investigations in the Florida Department of Corrections

In both SB 7020 and HB 7131, it is laudable that inspectors who conduct sexual abuse investigations are to receive specialized training. However, in both versions there are a host of contingencies that remain unaddressed.

In our communities, the prosecution of sexual abuse cases where rape has been alleged are fraught with difficulties. Prison rape cases present especially challenging conditions where protocols from outside sources may provide guidance.

Legislation regarding sexual abuse investigations must be explored in detail and written word for word into the law. The Florida Department of Corrections cannot be trusted to develop its own rape investigation protocols. And how will the DOC notify inmates what new protocols are in place and how they will work?

Although the following concerns focus on rape, other types of sexual abuse investigations may derive guidance as well.

Timely Investigation

Rape investigations are time sensitive. Investigations and evidence collection via rape kits must be conducted within 120 hours. FL DOC policy provides a Six Month period in which an investigation may be commenced. This is unacceptable. I know of a male inmate, awaiting a rape investigation, who has been in administrative confinement for nearly three months - he has yet to meet with an investigator. In addition, he is being treated as if he is a disciplinary case complete with taunting and withholding of books and commissary.     

Gender of Investigator

From the moment an inmate reports a rape, time is of the essence. An investigator must be assigned immediately. The gender of the victim must be considered when assigning an investigator. A female inmate must be paired with a female investigator. Likewise, male victim - male investigator.

Rape Kit Provision and Testing

Rape Kits must be available onsite in the medical sections of all prisons in Florida. Doctors and trained medical personnel must respond immediately to requests to do pelvic exams and rape kits. The kits themselves must be tested in a timely manner to insure that the DNA evidence meets prosecutorial standards. Custody of rape evidence must not be left to chance - there must be clear guidelines regarding its possession and storage.

Final Thoughts

These are just a few concerns I hope Senators and Representatives will take into consideration when drafting prison reform legislation. I encourage lawmakers to reach out to sexual abuse experts in our communities to insure that prison rape cases be handled in the most expeditious and humane way possible.


April 14, 2015

A Letter to House Members with Recommendations for Dislodging the Culture of Abuse and Cover-up in the Florida Department of Corrections

George's Note: I sent this letter to Representative Carlos Trujillo on Saturday the 11th. Today the House Judiciary Committee met to discuss House Bill 7131. Please click on the Miami Herald story that ran this morning: House proposal offers big increase in prison oversight. Click Judiciary Committee to see the video of today's hearing. Discussion of 7131 starts at the 21:00 mark.

Dear Representatives and Committee Members,

I think all agree that something needs to be done about longstanding problems within the FL DOC. Those who minimize, downplay, or gloss over the plethora of abuses somehow hope the problem will go away. A problem can't be solved by pretending it doesn't exist. I would like to share with you the insights I gathered from my experience working as a psychotherapist in the psychiatric ward at the Dade Correctional Institution and later. Since I became active in prison reform, numerous individuals have contacted me describing the ongoing retaliation and abuse their loved ones suffer in prison.

All of the scrutiny from former Secretary Michael Crews and new Secretary Julie Jones have had no impact on guards who abuse and those who cover up their crimes. A few arrests here and there hardly scratch the surface. The odds of guards facing any consequences are minimal and they know it. Inmates cower in fear. Though I hope it doesn't come to pass, I predict uprisings in some of the prisons. Prison riots don't happen when men are treated with respect and by the book.

The strongest measures must be taken. Unfortunately, House Bill 7131 will not get the job done. I submit that 1731 be repopulated with all of the provisions in Senate Bill 7020 and then strengthened on top of it. There must be accountability and transparency. Imagine this scenario: Your committees comes back with a stronger bill than the Senate's. That would put the onus on them. To me, it seems better to negotiate from a position of strength rather than weakness. Consider how favorably the press would react. I for one am exhausted reading story after story detailing the DOC's inhumanities and atrocities.

Floridians need to know that men and women released by the DOC are better prepared to rejoin society than when they went in. Often this is not the case. In fact, a quick survey of Region 3 prisons reveals only half have any vocational programs at all. How can we expect former convicts to be productive members of society when they have been subjected to years of DOC abuse?

Please consider the recommendations that follow. I look forward to speaking with you on the phone or in person.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide an alternate perspective,

George Mallinckrodt

Solutions for the Florida Department of Corrections and the Office of the Inspector General

Changing the culture of corruption, retaliation, brutality, and secrecy that is at the core of the FL DOC and the OIG is the most critical task and should be given the highest priority. The following suggestions are geared toward loosening the grip of a minority of officers, administrators, and high-ranking DOC and Inspector General personnel that control the Department of Corrections.

This minority exerts power through intimidation and retaliation – loss of jobs, demotions, veiled threats and a host of strong arm tactics – they will resort to violence when necessary. From the newly hired guard to the 20-year veteran to experienced inspectors, this culture of abuse and cover-up is felt throughout the ranks of the DOC.

Keep in mind the DOC and the OIG have a poor track record of policing or regulating themselves. They cannot be trusted. We cannot expect this to change overnight. I recently asked a high ranking correctional union representative when the time would come when good officers would speak out against corrupt officers that tarnish their reputations. His reply, “It’s not time yet.” Maybe now is the time to clean house.

Retaliation is the glue that keeps this minority in power. Inmates would tell of abuses if they knew they were safe. Guards have figured out numberless ways of keeping inmates silent.

The stakes are high. Hundreds if not thousands of inmates a week are subjected to a range of relatively “minor” abuses that include: not being fed, being verbally abused, denied visitation, bogus disciplinary reports, having personal property stolen by guards, withholding/destroying personal mail, and unsealing legal mail. One person told me blankets and sheets were being withheld in brutally cold confinement cells where guards add to their sick pleasure by turning on floor fans to blast freezing men. The list of abuses grows with each mother, father, wife, and sister who contact me hoping I can help them keep their family members safe on the inside.

The fear of retaliation is strong and real for family members who want to speak out against the abuses guards heap upon their relatives incarcerated in the DOC. They rightly fear the “major” abuses we've all read about: beatings, torture, and murder. A week ago, someone told me their slightly built family member was purposefully put into a cell with a known sexual predator who outweighed him by 75 pounds. The man was knocked unconscious and raped. This retaliation will probably never come to light.

It is not enough to fire or prosecute a few guards who commit crimes against inmates. What about the men and women in "upper level management" who colluded to cover up their crimes. Many news articles have described how upper level management threatened retaliation if whistleblowers did not drop cases. Initiating deep investigations into the hierarchies of the DOC and OIG would send a message to good, honest, hardworking corrections personnel that a new day has arrived. Inmates, likewise, could trust their concerns will finally be heard.

Oversight Commission

The idea of oversight commissions in all three regions makes sense as they can respond more quickly to incidents and provide a regional presence. I would suggest regular meetings of Commission Chairs to maintain a consistent set of objectives in all three regions.

The following objectives could be folded into commission functions:

1. Install, maintain, and monitor all cameras. Replace all outdated cameras and recording devices with High Definition or HD equipment. The critical areas where there must be 100% coverage are places that inmates can be totally or partially isolated. Close Management, solitary, or confinement are these critical areas. The most egregious brutality happens in seclusion. Other isolated rooms and areas need coverage as well.

The DOC would monitor camera feeds at the prisons while data is collected and stored in Commission locations. DOC personnel have a history of sabotaging camera footage. In Darren Rainey's scalding death, footage showed him being put into the shower and then there was a mysterious "malfunction."

Commission personnel would monitor camera feeds remotely. In the event a camera malfunctions, repair crews from one of the three regions could be dispatched to make repairs. Monitors could also dispatch Commission personnel to locations that needed urgent attention.

Some thought should be given to the idea of body cameras for correctional officers who are in direct contact with inmates.

Having complete camera coverage is the strongest measure to control the behavior of abusers. Relocating abusers will not work. They will resume their abuse in the new prison. We can take a lesson from the Catholic church on this.

2. 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 whistleblowers. Investigators would be charged with cataloging Incident Reports, Inmate Grievances, and any other documentation of abusive behavior of guards and their cover-ups. All witnesses would be immediately interviewed. Ideally, this investigative task force would be given the power to make arrests when warranted.

3. Collect and process all inmate grievances. This will prevent unscrupulous guards from hijacking the grievance process to hide their horrific behavior. A database should be compiled on abusive officers and their abuses. Inmates are our eyes and ears on the inside. When it comes to abuse, inmates' truth and accuracy hovers between 80 and 100 percent.

4. Collect, disseminate, and distribute all incoming and outgoing mail. As it stands now, regular mail, and indeed legal mail, is routinely intercepted and destroyed by guards aiming to eliminate scrutiny of their contemptible practices. By DOC rules, legal mail must remain sealed.

5. Establish a toll-free anonymous, confidential hotline to report inmate abuse, rape, corruption, medical neglect, and a host of other illegal activities. A special number could be dialed from inmate phones that would be encrypted and not be monitored by DOC personnel. The call would be answered or recorded by Commission personnel.

Regulations for private prison companies and private providers of mental health and medical staff:

One of the glaring omissions from my new employee orientation was the lack of any training regarding inmate abuse. Except for the obvious beating, torture, and killing of inmates, I was in the dark. Inmate abuse was happening all around me yet I passed it off as a bad day in prison. How can staffers do anything about abuse if they don't know what it is in the first place?

1. Future contracts with private contractors must have a clauses to deal with inmate abuse.

2. Private contractors must have educational/training seminars to inform company employees in every aspect of the recognition and reporting of inmate abuse.

Training for the Recognition and Reporting of Inmate Abuse

Currently, private providers of medical and mental health services have no training for new employees in what constitutes abuse. The following are a few of the many ways guards abuse inmates.

  • Skipping Food Trays – “Air Tray” 
  • Punitive Cell Search 
  • Taunting / Antagonizing / Tormenting 
  • “Excessive Use of Force” 
  • Denial of Medical Treatment 
  • Punitive Use of Pepper Spray 
  • Pairing inmates with unequal sentences 
3. Private contractors would be required to provide support services in the event an employee had to testify in court against corrections officers.

4. Clearly stated consequences in Employee Manuals for not reporting inmate abuse: Immediate Dismissal.

Treatment Protocols for the Mentally Ill:

The FL DOC needs to do a better job at tracking the mentally ill from county jails. Estimates suggest that nearly 60% of all inmates suffer some form of mental illness while 16% suffer from severe mental illness. Inmates from the 16% will be targets for other inmates and untrained guards in general population settings. The severely mentally ill are traumatized multiple times whether it be on our streets, county jails, and the courts. The FL DOC is the largest single provider of mental health services in the state. It should not be the source of even more trauma.

1. Upon entry into prison system, segregate the mentally ill from general population into a specialized reception center.

2. Maintain medications from jail if possible.

3. Immediately perform a psychiatric evaluation.

4. Prescribe psychotropic medications and counseling.

5. Create programs and activities to humanely support the inmates in their progress and recovery from mental illness.

6. Under no circumstances should the severely mentally ill be placed in solitary confinement.

Requirements for Guards in a Psychiatric Setting

1. Guards who have a more than one ‘use of force’ entry in their records should not work in a psychiatric setting.

2. All guards who might work in these mental health settings must undergo personality screenings to ferret out those with their own mental health issues. I suggest the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2. The MMPI-2 can reveal adult psychopathology in guards and eliminate them from working with the mentally ill.

3. Crisis Intervention training and certification would be required.

4. Ongoing trainings for providing services and security to the mentally ill would be the norm.

Requirements for Guards in General

Another deficiency of the DOC is the consistently poor background screening of potential guards. A story broke last week about three guards with Ku Klux Klan affiliations arrested for conspiracy to murder a former inmate. Obviously, the DOC should set the bar higher.

1. It makes sense to give the MMPI-2 to all new recruits to keep those with sociopathic tendencies from guarding inmates. Sociopaths are exactly the type to abuse, torture, and kill inmates.

2. I would recommend the MMPI-2 being given to all current guards for obvious reasons, but that is likely to be shot down by the Unions.

3. In-depth background checks are not being conducted by the DOC. Many newspaper articles have revealed histories of criminal behavior in the backgrounds of abusive guards.

4. The FL DOC should have trainings to educate new employees and guards in the recognition and reporting of abuse. Identifying the many forms of abuse is the first step in clarifying what is unacceptable behavior. In the week long DOC orientation and yearly trainings, abuse and what constitutes abuse were never discussed.

Miami Herald - House proposal offers big increase in prison oversight

House proposal offers big increase in prison oversight



Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/special-reports/florida-prisons/article18445109.html#storylink=cpy

Rep. Carlos Trujillo
  Rep. Carlos Trujillo


The chief inspector general of the prison system and most of his top staff would be replaced, prison guards would wear body cameras, a hotline would log abuse claims and five regional oversight boards would conduct unannounced prison inspections under a massive rewrite of the House prison reform bill.

The proposal will be offered Tuesday by House Criminal Justice Committee Chairman Carlos Trujillo as an amendment to HB 7131, in an attempt to bridge the gap between a comprehensive Senate bill and the weaker House version. Both bills are a response to allegations of abuse and corruption in Florida’s prison system.

“This bill is taking us 80 percent of the way there, but it is a work in progress, Trujillo told the Herald/Times of his proposal, filed late Monday. “There are other things that can’t be addressed in one bill, but it’s a start.”

Trujillo said he was motivated to revise the House proposal after testimony from inmate families and prison reform advocates who pleaded with the House to strengthen its legislation. It will be voted on by the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

The proposal envisions a wholesale review of all hiring practices, employee retention policies and employee training, Trujillo said. It requires that the state create five regional oversight boards, staffed by state employees whose terms would last no more than four years, and the goal would be to increase oversight and accountability at the troubled agency.

“I don’t think a single person’s job is safe under our new approach,
 Trujillo said. “Everyone has to be held accountable.

Trujillo, a Miami Republican who is a lawyer and former prosecutor, said he would start by removing the DOC’s Chief Inspector General Jeffery Beasley, who has been accused of sabotaging investigations and repeatedly ignoring claims of inmate abuse.

“The current leader is not the ideal person for the job and, it appears, the IG’s office is the dumping ground for a lot of very bad actors,
 Trujillo said. “Everybody who has a buddy ends up there — and you can tell by the reports.” For months, the Miami Herald has documented reports of suspicious inmate deaths, claims by whistleblowers, and allegations of cover-ups at the agency.

DOC Secretary Julie Jones has steadfastly defended Beasley, saying the allegations come from a handful of “disgruntled employees.”

Trujillo met with Jones for an hour Monday and is “confident she is being absolutely honest with me,
 he said. “We disagree on some things — the inspector general is one of them.”

Trujillo said he believes there are some personality profiles that are not suited to be corrections officers and the agency has to do a better job of weeding those people out.

“Some of these bad actors have mental health profiles that can indicate they are going to be bad actors — domestic violence histories and other things,
 he said. “We have to do a lot of work preventively in the hiring process to make sure these predators, these sociopaths, are not selected.”

Among his proposals:

▪ Wardens and department heads would be required to establish performance standards and the entire chain of command would be held responsible for them. The secretary would be given stronger tools to remove wardens and others who do not follow through.

▪ An anonymous hotline would be established for families and friends of inmates to report suspected abuse.

▪ Use of force reports would be removed from the prisons and consolidated in the central office, to create another layer of oversight.

▪ The inmate grievance process would be streamlined and ultimately shifted to an electronic process that would withstand attempts by prison staff to tamper with complaints about them.

▪ Inmate grievances also would be removed from the local prisons and handled by the regional review boards with more transparency.

▪ Body cameras would be worn by corrections officers working in designated mental health centers and, eventually as the budget allows, would be worn by all corrections officers.

▪ All surveillance footage from prison cameras would be archived off-site, to avoid incidents in which footage involving suspicious inmate deaths or use of force incidents disappears.

Although the proposal would move the House much closer to the Senate’s bill, the two chambers would still have to work out differences.

Inmate healthcare also would come under increased scrutiny under the plan, Trujillo said, with vendors required to follow strict criteria for healthcare outcomes and quality as part of their contracts.

He acknowledged that the Legislature’s attempt to direct vendor contracts through its budget process has created some of the problems that have led to low-quality care.

“That’s one thing we have to accept responsibility for,
 he said. “A lot of these contracts have to be rebid. The standard shouldn’t be subpar. The standard should be excellence.”

Last week, the Senate passed a major prison reform plan that would create a nine-member oversight commission made up of volunteers with a budget and professional staff. It would have the power to issue subpoenas, do regular “security audits” and impose penalties on employees caught using inappropriate force against inmates.

Trujillo said he fears that the job of the board is too big for volunteers, as the Senate envisions, and could be co-opted by vendors interested in getting prison contracts.

“There are systemic failures on top of personnel issues, and they require a full-time solution,” he said.

April 8, 2015

A Group Effort Pays Off in Tallahassee - Senate Bill 7020 vs. House Bill 7131

A big THANKS goes out to Gemma and Fred who spoke passionately on behalf of their sons who suffer from mental illness and impairment. The Justice Appropriations Subcommittee heard how the Florida Department of Corrections is failing to provide adequate care. Both men are in very poor condition physically and psychologically. Each have spent years in solitary confinement which is contraindicated for their diagnoses. 

Before Bill 7131 came up, I spoke briefly regarding Bill 7113 - Mental Health Services in the Criminal Justice System. I asked that Crisis Intervention Training be mandatory for law enforcement officers statewide. During the debate process, with regard to CIT, Representative Kathleen Peters looked over to me and said, "You will see that go statewide, I assure you."

On to Bill 7131: Four amendments were adopted without objection into 7131. Several House members asked Representative Trujillo about his committee's bill as compared to Senate Bill 7020. He admitted a few times that 7131 did not match 7020. 

In the debate process, Representative Ahern mentioned 7131 and 7020, then pointed out, "Unless this (7131) does pass there really isn't any negotiation between the two bodies (House and Senate). . . the passage of this bill puts us in a posture to negotiate what might be the best compromise between the two bills to ultimately come up with a good solution for what's happening in our prison system."

Democratic Ranking Member Rouson said, "Out of all the bills that we have seen in this committee, this probably will be one of the most important ones, one of the most critical ones." He went on to say that he has "received phone calls, emails, and comments from the public supportive of 7020, and it looks like 7131 is really a scaled down version. . .we want to improve it so that when it does hit the floor it takes care of a lot of concerns that people have." After the meeting Rouson came up to me and thanked me for coming up from Miami to speak before the committee. 

My sense of the committee is that there is a commitment to passing legislation to address problems in the FL DOC. My civics lesson was that, even though 7131 is a weaker version of 7020, it needed to pass to take it into the negotiation process to make it stronger.

Gemma and I were able to meet with Trujillo after the hearing. He was willing to listen to our suggestions and was amenable to scheduling a phone conversation with me. I promised to send him a list of recommendations to make 7131 stronger. Judy Thompson from Forgotten Majority was able to schedule a personal meeting with Trujillo for the afternoon.

Herald reporter Mary Ellen Klas came over to ask me some questions. Please read her story below.

Fred Hayes - 00:14:40 and 1:24:00 
Gemma Pena - 1:08:00
George Mallinckrodt - 00:09:02 and 1:14:00

Link to Justice Appropriations Subcommittee video.

Despite appeals, House advances modest prison reforms

04/07/2015 8:20 PM


Gemma Pena traveled from Hialeah to Tallahassee to plead with a House committee Tuesday to establish a prison system that is “less lethal to our mentally ill” and “holds prisons more accountable.”
Her son, Kristopher Rodriguez, had been treated for mental illness for years when he was convicted of shooting someone during a drug deal. Now, housed in confinement at Lake Correctional Institution, he is “being allowed to make his own health decisions” and refuses to take his medications, his mother told the House Criminal Justice Appropriations Committee Tuesday. She said he is kept isolated, without a cellmate.
Rather than rehabilitate him, she said sobbing, the prison has made him “gravely ill.” She urged the committee to abandon HB 7131, and embrace a more robust Senate proposal that imposes oversight over medical care of sick inmates and allows families like hers to conduct an independent assessment of an inmate’s health.
“Kristopher hasn’t always been mentally ill,’’ said Pena, a cardiovascular technologist. “In fact, he was a child who won awards for academic excellence. He had every promise and future ahead of him and every expectation for success. However, mental illness changes everyone’s life and no one here is exempt to that.”
Despite appeals from Pena and several other prison reformers to strengthen the proposed legislation, the House committee voted to make minor adjustments to its bill and then passed it by a 10-2 vote.
The House bill would impose additional oversight on the Florida Department of Corrections by adding two administrative regions to the existing three, adding 10 executive positions and spending $1.2 million more on hiring staff, but leaves in place the same structure that prison reformers say has contributed to reports of suspicious inmate deaths, allegations of cover-ups, and claims by whistleblowers that the system’s chief inspector general has sabotaged investigations and ignored inmate abuse.
By contrast, the full Senate has passed a bill, SB 7020, that would create a nine-member oversight commission with the power to investigate and subpoena employees and hold them accountable for reforming the system.
Under an amendment added to the House bill, the five regions would oversee fewer prisoners. The plan allows judges to sentence offenders to county jails for up to 24 months, allowing the inmates to stay close to their families — unless the county signs a contract with another prison and transfers them.
The House bill also would require the state to provide for more “security audits” and make the existing memorandum of understanding that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigate all suspicious deaths at DOC a matter of law.
The committee’s approach is supported by House leaders and Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones. They are seeking to offset the more aggressive Senate plan. Contributing to the divide is the current feud between the House and Senate over how to resolve a $4 billion budget difference over the future of health coverage for the uninsured.
“It’s not a crisis situation. It’s much worse than that,’’ said Allison DeFoor, chairman of the Project for Accountable Justice at Florida State University.
He said recent news reports tell how inadequate the current system is. These include the arrests last week by federal officials of two current and one former corrections officers who, as purported Ku Klux Klan members, are alleged to have plotted the death of a former inmate; a report that an offender on probation was raped by a probation officer, and other reports that inmates have been fatally gassed.
“This thing is really bad,’’ he said. “We believe it’s structural. Not everybody in the system is bad, but how many bad apples does it take to ruin a basket?”
George Mallinckrodt, a mental health professional who says he lost his job at Dade Correctional Institution after speaking up about mistreatment of inmates, told the committee the House bill “just doesn’t go far enough,” warning that it could send a message that current practices are accepted.
He said “inmates are subjected to a wide range of abuse on a weekly basis” because the system is “plagued by a deeply entrenched, multi-generational culture of corruption, retaliation, brutality and secrecy.”
“Floridians need the strongest legislation possible to make the horror stories from prisons a thing of the past,’’ he said.
The sponsor of the House bill, Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, agreed with the critics that there was a need for a change in culture but questioned the effectiveness of an oversight panel.
“I don’t think you’re going to be able to hire Superman who is going to be able to show up and reform the whole place,’’ he said after the meeting. “I think it’s a combination of having additional oversight...that truly drills down and identifies issues."
Trujillo said he is open to adding provisions to the House that impose accountability measures on the department, but also said he would like to see a select committee review and investigate the department over the summer.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/special-reports/florida-prisons/article17797670.html#storylink=cpy

April 2, 2015

Former Warden at Florida State Prison Weighs in On House Bill 7131

Ron McAndrew, former warden at FSP, sent me a brief note he gave me permission to share. It is his response to my blog about the gutting of Senate Bill 7020.

“Thanks for the new post. Scott's boys are up and down the hallways plotting and scheming to prevent any real change. It's a shame as some very serious oversight is needed. If the amended bill moves forward it will only send a message to the goon-squads that kicking ass and taking names is an OK thing.” 

If anybody knows what’s going on inside it’s Ron McAndrew. He also knows a thing or two about retaliation - a very serious and longstanding problem that's being glossed over by those who want to maintain a culture of brutality and secrecy.

Here’s his quote in Miami Herald article, Florida prison boss orders use-of-force audit, 10/16/14 by Julie Brown.

“Corrections officials know that a significant number of force applications never get reported,” said Ron McAndrew, former warden at Florida State Prison. 

“There were many times at Florida State Prison where I would come upon situations where I encountered an inmate who had two black eyes, a bloody mouth, and bruises up and down his body,” he said. “I would ask him what happened and he said he fell off his bunk. Well, he didn't get injuries like that from falling off his bunk. He was too afraid to tell me that he was beaten by the officers.” 

Retaliation doesn't stop with inmates. 

When I spoke to Ron for the first time last year, he told me a story about his first corrections job at Dade Correctional Institution of all places. For those of you who don’t know, DCI was where I worked as a psychotherapist for nearly three years in the psychiatric ward. 

Ron went to Europe as a GI in 1958, was discharged there in 1961…worked as a civilian for the USAF for two years and then joined a French firm working in France, the Middle East, Far East and South East Asia until 1978. He lost his job with the French firm in 1978.

In 1979 he was 42 when he took his first job as a correctional officer. Almost immediately, he noticed guards being abusive to inmates. When he wouldn't go along, his fellow officers sent him a message. They slashed the new tires on his truck and poisoned his dog to death! This was back in 1979/80.

The point is, house members need to understand the severity and long-standing nature of the deep-rooted problems plaguing the FL DOC. They need to pass the strongest possible bill - not HB 7131 in its present form.

You can't fix a problem by hiding it or hoping it will go away. 

April 1, 2015

Another Excellent Column by Paula Dockery - Come on, Governor, Let’s Get to Work

Come on, Governor, Let’s Get to Work


Paula Dockery is a syndicated columnist who served in the Florida Legislature for 16 years as a Republican from Lakeland. She can be reached at PBDockery@gmail.com.

People are dying in state care and all Gov. Rick Scott can muster is a blank stare.

Since 2000, 3,954 inmates have died in our state prison system and last year was our deadliest ever with 346 deaths. Particularly disturbing is that the numbers keep rising with reports that some died by unusual circumstances.

According to the Department of Corrections website, of the 346 deaths of inmates in custody, 140 of them were attributed to HIV, cancer and cardiac or gastro conditions, with another 24 classified as other medical reasons. Three were classified as accidents, three as homicides, seven as suicides, and in 163 cases the cause of death is still pending. Pending?

With an aging prison population and longer sentences, some of these deaths could reasonably be explained. What is more difficult to explain is the blistering reports of prisoner abuse that are coming to light and the disturbing fact that some of them were classified as death by natural causes when that was not the case. How can we continue to trust the numbers?

One death involved a nonviolent offender with a medical condition who begged for medical attention. He not only was denied the care he needed but was gassed to death in a cell in solitary confinement by those entrusted with his care. 

Inmates that told what they saw or heard were threatened or worse. The same was true of prison staff. In another grisly death, a mentally ill inmate was scalded to death as punishment for defecating in his cell. His skin literally melted off his body and his screams for help were ignored. It appears cover-ups were a routine matter.

The DOC website offers this on Inmate mortality: “The Department is dedicated to providing proper care and supervision for all inmates incarcerated with us, and provides inmates with access to appropriate levels of health care to meet their needs.”

Apparently the families of Florida inmates who died while in the care and custody of the DOC don’t agree that their loved one received the appropriate level of care and have filed numerous lawsuits against the state.

A pair of private companies was awarded lucrative contracts, totaling $1.4 billion, to provide health care to our inmates despite the fact that both faced hundreds of lawsuits in other states.

We shouldn't be too surprised to hear that inmates with cancer were given Tylenol. The less care they provide, the more profitable they are. Unfortunately, we the taxpayers are on the hook financially for these disastrous privatized medical contracts.

When details of widespread abuse, shoddy medical care, employee intimidation, contraband and corruption were exposed during Scott’s re-election, we heard nary a peep. His DOC secretary, Mike Crews, his third in as many years, resigned amid the growing prison scandal and admitted his frustration with the chronic underfunding and understaffing of the department. Crews admitted he was told to take a bullet for the governor by Scott’s chief of staff and that they were more concerned with press releases than fixing the prison mess.

Enter DOC secretary number four, Julie Jones, who started out strong but quickly backpedaled on her public comments. Her new company line is -- the DOC has a perception problem and a few disgruntled employees are overblowing the extent of the abuse.

Scott continues to ignore the growing scandal, leaving others to downplay its scope. So ignoring it works? Apparently it works for the governor’s political career but it’s not working well for the 100,000 inmates, their families and the 21,000 DOC employees who are caught up in the corrupt and often violent system.

Scott did not create the problems at DOC. They have been festering for many years. But as governor he is responsible for all the executive agencies under his control, including the DOC. For over four years he has buried his head in the sand. Where is the accountability that his administration is so fond of demanding from others?

In 2011, amid chronic and systemic problems in Georgia’s prison system, the governor of Georgia, along with his attorney general and legislative leaders, decided to truly reform their prison system. With their united commitment and vision they have achieved impressive results -- a significant drop in the inmate population and a corresponding savings of seven percent a year.

In the absence of leadership from Florida’s governor, members of the Florida Senate have filled the void. Its 51-page bill (SB 7020) incorporates some of the reforms that have been successful in other states.

The Senate is showing the way, but the House is dragging its feet, the DOC secretary is quietly fighting the independent oversight commission that is the heart of the reform effort, and the governor is AWOL.

Just as in Georgia, it’s going to take a joint effort of state leaders to effect change.

Inmates in our care are dying, corrections officers and inspectors are being intimidated or punished for reporting abuse and the corrupt few are being rewarded, promoted and protected. It’s time for systemic, top-to-bottom reform with independent oversight.

Come on, Governor, let’s get to work.