June 23, 2015

Today is the Three Year Anniversary of Darren Rainey's Murder

June 23, 2012 - Darren Rainey's life was ended by sadistic guards who locked him in a scalding hot shower and left him begging for his life as he boiled to death. His murder set in motion a series of events that are still playing out today. Initially classified as "an in custody death from natural causes," Darren's death was handled in the typical strategy the Florida Department of Corrections employed on numerous occasions - cover it up by any means possible - falsified reports and layers of bureaucratic red tape. Guards even went so far as to sabotage the video from the fixed wing camera. A supposed "malfunction" resulted in disrupted footage minutes after Rainey was locked in the shower stall - Richard Nixon would be proud.

The FL DOC cover-up had help from unlikely sources: The Miami-Dade Police Department's Homicide Division and the Miami Medical Examiner's Office. In a third-rate investigation, that apparently found nothing unusual about a man whose skin had peeled away from 90% of his body, detectives decided an in-depth inquiry was unnecessary. No inmates who were witnesses to Rainey's killing were interviewed.

The Miami Medical Examiner did an autopsy, the results of which are still "pending" three years after Rainey's death. Their excuse was, and still is, they are waiting for detectives to decide if there was a homicide. Police meanwhile point to the ME to finalize the autopsy so they can wrap up their investigation. The net result in this game of hot potato: No charges have been filed against the officers who put Rainey in the shower to die. Nor have any charges been filed against prison administrators who colluded to cover up the crime.   

So the fix was on - the cover-up securely in place. Business as usual in the DOC. Except for two men - Harold Hempstead and me. He was housed together with Rainey in the psychiatric wing known as J3 - I once had an office there. Still suffering from PTSD, he heard Rainey's anguished cries from his cell for well over an hour. Helplessly standing by and profoundly affected, Harold - a deeply religious man - knew he had no choice but to encourage the DOC to reopen the investigation. His sister Windy told me he had filed over 90 grievances to no avail.

Refusing to give up, Harold directed Windy to contact the Miami Herald. On May 18, 2014, reporter Julie Brown filed the first of what would be over 70 stories detailing the astonishing corruption, secrecy, and brutality within the FL DOC. I give tremendous credit to Harold Hempstead for coming forward at great risk to his life - no idle claim given the number of inmates who have been documented by the Herald as being killed by guards in retaliation for finger pointing.

After reading the story that Sunday morning, I contacted Julie Brown to corroborate Hempstead's account. On May 20th, I stepped forward publicly in Julie's second story detailing the abuses at the Dade Correctional Institution. How much I propelled the issue forward is anybody's guess. What was certain was that it wasn't another brutal account from a so-called "criminal" - destined to fizzle out like so many other prison news stories I had come across in my research. As a mental health professional who had worked in the Transitional Care Unit, I lent immediate credibility to Harold's story.

I had been far from idle in the two years before the Herald story broke. I first heard the details of Rainey's murder two days after it had happened from my former coworker Carmen. Her vivid description and our conversation would become the basis for the first chapter of my book called, Getting Away With Murder. Initially, I tried to get justice for Darren Rainey by exhausting every logical avenue I could think of - including a sit down interview with two FBI agents. Even after I gave them the stunning details of Rainey's killing, they decided they didn't have enough to do an investigation! Later, I filed a complaint with the Department of Justice specifying a host of abuses that occurred at TCU - beatings, torture, and the murder of Rainey.

Within days of the second Miami Herald story, I did a slew of local television and radio shows. I was contacted by numerous reporters for my perspective. I started getting calls and emails from those with relatives on the inside, desperate for any guidance I could provide to help keep their loved ones safe. With each new contact, I was hearing stories of abuse and retaliation that made the Herald stories seem like the tip of the iceberg.

Even while DOC Secretary Michael Crews was touting a "no tolerance" stance against inmate abuse, the killings continued. In October, I was invited to Tallahassee by civil rights attorneys, Parks & Crump, to speak at a press conference regarding the suspicious death of Latandra Ellington. She complained to her aunt she was afraid a guard would kill her. Latandra was put into solitary confinement for her protection - the next day she turned up dead. An autopsy paid for by her family found abdominal trauma consistent with being punched or kicked in the stomach.

Weeks later, I had my official book launch in November at Books & Books in Coral Gables, Florida. In attendance were three women I had spoken to previously about their sons who were incarcerated in Florida prisons. Two had sons with severe mental illness whose treatment was inconsistent and substandard - unfortunately a common theme. The third, Ada, had told me how her son was assassinated by members of a prison gang. She refused to accept the DOC's version of his death and was seeking answers when she died unexpectedly. Ada's energy, intelligence, and strength will be greatly missed.

Late December, I received an invitation to present before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee the first week of January, 2015. I spoke with the chairman, Senator Greg Evers, for an hour before the hearing. Evers impressed me with his earnestness and desire to deal head-on with prison brutality issues. To his credit, he later visited prisons unannounced - I was impressed. Even more so when the committee put forth a strong prison reform bill with an independent oversight committee some three weeks after the hearing. Unfortunately, the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee followed with a gutted version. The House and Senate could not agree on what provisions should go into a final version so the prison reform bill remains in limbo.      

Meanwhile, failing to placate his boss Governor Scott, DOC Secretary Crews "resigned" and later complained, "I guess you can say they were more concerned with the crafting and writing of news releases and that had little to do with the reality of what needed to be done to keep the institutions safe and secure." In January, Gov. Scott tapped former Highway Patrol Director Julie Jones as his fourth prison secretary in four years. After initially making strong statements about accountability and transparency, Jones has backpedaled by silencing DOC investigators who spoke to the Miami Herald regarding cases that had been suspiciously quashed by Inspector General Jeffery Beasley. Jones's attention seems focused on hiring more guards and getting funding to fix prison buildings. She continues to minimize the number one issue within the FL DOC: The culture of brutality and secrecy.

Today, June 23, 2015, marks the three year anniversary of Darren Rainey's murder. While justice for him and his family has proved elusive, his death has not been meaningless. I believe when all has been said and done, we will point to Rainey's death as the turning point in reversing the brutality that still characterizes the FL DOC. I will continue to publicize the Florida prison scandal on a national level. People need to know that in comparison, prison brutality far exceeds the police brutality we hear about on a weekly basis. Simply put, people with cell phones are not roaming around prison grounds taking video of abuses - it's a felony to take a cell phone into prison.

A major focus of my work as a psychotherapist and human rights activist, is to advance the idea that the most cost effective means to treat mental illness is to catch it early. I worked in a middle school setting counseling at risk children. Many would have ended up in prison if not for a program that provided counseling, psych medication, and healthy boundaries provided by a low teacher to student ratio. Sadly, this program was disbanded for lack of money - no more safety net for mentally ill children in Miami-Dade County.

The criminalization of mental illness is a fact for many who find themselves in prison for no more than behavior consistent with their psychiatric diagnoses. Accordingly, it is essential to fund community mental health treatment centers as an alternative to the far more expensive and often inhumane prison alternative. Unfortunately, prisons are now the single largest providers of mental health services nationwide. Spend some money early or spend vast sums later in a last ditch effort in prisons poorly equipped to treat the mentally ill - the choice is ours.

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June 15, 2015

Human Rights Activist Needs Your Help. Take the $20 Dollar Challenge!

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June 10, 2015

Dockery Hits a Home Run With Her Latest Columns - Gov. Scott, Senate vs. House - A Must Read!

George's Note: Paula's two latest columns point to an almost comical political drama were it not for the many who continue to suffer through this latest legislative debacle. I wonder how many of the 840,000 voted Republican?

The Florida House Is Proud to Deny Healthcare Coverage
It’s official. The Florida House followed through on its promise to deny up to 840,000 Floridians healthcare coverage. And House members are not apologizing for it.
Nope. They’re proud of their actions. They think they are principled. They think they are right. They think they are winning the political argument.
Despite the fact that the constituents they were elected to represent would benefit, they said no. It didn’t much matter that no state tax dollars would be needed until 2017, when states pick up a mere 5 percent of the cost. They said no. When the Florida Senate amended its legislation to address some of the House’s concerns, it didn’t make a difference. They still said no.
When polls showed that the majority of Floridians support expanded healthcare coverage for the working poor, they ignored it. When hospitals and business groups supported the Senate’s FHIX plan, they dug in deeper. When the Feds warned two years ago that the LIP funding was phasing out, the House stood idly by.
Florida has one of the highest, if not the highest, number of uninsured. It also has the largest enrollment in subsidized health insurance despite efforts by Florida’s elected officials to weaken the Affordable Care Act’s chance of success.
The state refused to create its own marketplace, forcing its citizens to rely on the federal exchange. It challenged the ACA all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. 
The Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate, but allowed the states to opt out of taking federal funds to expand their Medicaid coverage. The ruling created the potential for a coverage gap.
States with Republican governors initially refused the expansion funds but some came to realize that their refusal only hurt the working poor, the small businesses and the hospitals in their states.  Twenty-nine states have now taken the federal funds, including 10 states with Republican leaders.
The Republican-led Florida Senate wanted to do the same and responsibly crafted a plan that was distinctly different from traditional Medicaid. The Senate FHIX plan included a work requirement and was structured to allow individuals to purchase private insurance.
The House leaders adamantly refused to consider it and quit the regular session three days early -- without a budget and without making coverage available for up to 840,000 Floridians.
The House and Senate leaders agreed to meet for a 20-day special session to finish the annual budget. The House was expected to take up the Senate plan, amend it and vote on it.  To House leaders’ credit, they did give it a floor vote.
But, in what can only be described as a carefully scripted and orchestrated piece of political theater, one by one, nearly every Republican attacked the bill using the focus group-tested buzzwords that incite their political base -- “Obama,” “Medicaid,” “entitlement” and “able-bodied adult.”
In an ominous sign, no Republican representative agreed to carry the Senate bill.  It fell to state Rep. Mia Jones, a Democrat from Jacksonville, to present the bill, answer hostile questions and manage the debate for it. Perhaps no one in leadership specifically told them not to sponsor or support the bill, but the message was clear. Republicans did not feel free to support the bill.  In the end, only four did.
Such is the nature of the clubby atmosphere. No one wants to be on the outside of the leadership circle. It’s better for political aspirations to go along to get along.
House leaders were most grateful after the bill’s defeat, tweeting that there was no political pressure -- and they rewarded their members’ loyalty by praising them for their “principled stance”.
To House members, mission accomplished. You were loyal to your leadership. You followed the script. You participated in seven hours of political theater. You kept up the frat-boy mutual back-slapping. You impressed each other with your snarky tweets.
And as a result, there will be no $50 billion in federal funds for Florida. There will be no healthcare expansion for the working poor this year. Hundreds of millions of state tax dollars that could have gone to other purposes, including tax cuts, education, Amendment 1, and prisons will be needed to fill the hole in LIP funding to reimburse hospitals for charity care.
Apparently the House members think the majority of voters aren’t paying attention. They are probably right. They must also believe that doing nothing to help the uninsured won’t hurt their re-election. Again -- probably right.
They know House leaders will have their backs. Heck, Speaker Steve Crisafulli explained it in an op-ed appearing in Florida newspapers: We don’t need to insure more people; we need to eliminate unnecessary regulations.
Their calculus on the lack of political fallout is probably correct but their callousness about the human toll is shamefully wrong.
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.   

Scott Holds Court in Orlando While Tallahassee Does a Slow Burn
While the Florida Legislature was meeting in special session to work out a budget plan, Gov. Rick Scott was 263 miles south at Disney World.
While some question why he wasn’t playing an active role in the negotiations between the House and Senate, I give him a pass for several reasons.
First of all, he has not only shown a lack of leadership, he’s actually been an impediment to progress by fanning the flames of dissent between the two republican-controlled chambers.  Perhaps it’s better for him to occupy himself with something else.
Second, he wasn’t there to visit Mickey; he was there to host an “Economic Growth Summit” -- one that had been planned for months. In fact, while planning the summit, he didn’t know for sure that the Legislature would be back in special session at the same time. So let’s cut him a little slack.
An economic summit sounds pretty good. Having some of the greatest economic minds gather to discuss what is best for the future economic prosperity of Florida and the United States could prove very beneficial.
I picture well-known and respected economic scholars and practitioners reviewing trends, showing charts and providing economic forecasts while financial experts and policy researchers discussed shared prosperity, sustainable growth and the global economy.
But that’s not what Gov. Scott had in mind.
His “Economic Growth Summit” was actually a political event. The speakers were neither academicians nor economists -- they were seven of the top-tier contenders seeking to win the Republican presidential primaries.
That’s right, the summit was actually a cattle call for the Republican presidential hopefuls.
With national and state media showing up in droves, 29 electoral votes to be won and a veritable who’s who of Florida’s fundraisers in the audience -- few candidates would turn down the governor’s invitation to attend such an event.
Surprisingly, the event was hosted not by the Republican Party of Florida but rather by Scott’s political committee -- Let’s Get to Work.
Ostensibly, the summit was to focus on jobs. Scott would be able to brag about the positive economic growth in Florida, the jobs created and the decline in unemployment. He would then offer a stage for seven of the leading contenders to talk about their economic platforms.
That stage included a banner, an incredibly large banner. Rick Scott’s name appeared across the top of the banner in gigantic letters -- so large that numerous media outlets felt the need to point out the enormous size. Underneath in much smaller type you could make out the words “Economic Growth Summit” and below that in even smaller letters was “Brought to you by Let’s Get to Work Committee.”
The event seemed to be more about Scott’s ambition, self-promotion, political posturing and interjection onto the national stage.
For their part, the candidates or soon-to-be candidates -- Marco Rubio (via video), Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush  -- sang Scott’s praises, kissed the ring, and launched into their campaign speeches.
Mike Huckabee -- in a statement of complete candor -- gave his rationale for attending Rick Scott’s Economic Growth Summit: “Anything I can do to suck up to him and his donors, by God, I want to do.”
Candidates then proceeded to discuss a plethora of issues such as states’ rights, their opposition to Obamacare, immigration reform, entitlement reform and, if they cared to, jobs and the economy.
After speaking, the GOP presidential hopefuls had the opportunity to move to an area with another Rick Scott-dominated backdrop where they fielded questions from state and national news media.
So it wasn’t really an economic summit advancing state business and it really wasn’t a Republican Party event, as the Republican Party of Florida was basically snubbed -- neither involved nor invited.
Instead, it was an opportunistic move by Scott to use his position as governor of a critical electoral state to help boost his profile and advance his future political aspirations, stoking speculation about his desire to be considered for vice president or a run for U.S. Senate in 2018.
One reporter tweeted: Will the national media question Scott for holding a beauty pageant amid tumultuous times in his state?
Meanwhile, back at the ranch -- aka Tallahassee -- Scott’s leading Medicaid official, Justin Senior, was snubbing the Florida Senate.
Senior appeared at the House committee the prior day with a bill analysis criticizing the Senate healthcare expansion plan. He didn’t see fit to share it with the Senate nor did he think it necessary to show up at the Senate committee hearing.
Senators were livid. Senior eventually appeared. Chairman Tom Lee minced no words, calling his information disingenuous and rightfully pointing out that he was doing the House’s bidding.
On the House side, Scott's proposed tax cuts were cut in half.
Perhaps it wasn’t the best time for the governor to host a political cotillion.
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.  

June 5, 2015

An Impressive Article From Inside a Prison in the FL DOC

George's Note: I recently came across this article and was struck by how eloquently it was written on the subject of punishment. John Bundy, no relation to Ted Bundy, speaks of his experience as a lifer who will die in prison - no chance of parole. From what I learned in my three years of counseling inmates, I think the death penalty is the easy way out compared to a life sentence. Bundy was thrown into solitary confinement for his writing this piece - so much for the 1st amendment. Please leave a comment - I would like to hear what you think.  

An Inside Look at Florida's Prisons By JOHN BUNDY
Published: Monday, January 19, 2015 at 12:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 18, 2015 at 8:15 p.m.

I have been incarcerated in the Florida Department of Corrections for more than two decades and am serving seven life terms, five of which are without possibility of parole. I have witnessed many of the things that were addressed in the article "Group Calls for State Prison System Overall," published in The Ledger on Nov. 14. Prison reform has been a long time coming.

What I am most impassioned about relates to the statement in the article, "In addition to punishing inmates, make a concerted effort to rehabilitate them." Though I believe I understand the intent, I take issue with the language.

You cannot punish inmates and rehabilitate them at the same time.

A clear distinction must be made between those who broke the law and have been incarcerated and those who have been incarcerated and continue to break the law. In the first instance, the individual has been incarcerated as punishment, separated from society and its benefits, privileges and freedoms. In the second, the incarcerated individual continues in his pattern of criminal behavior, undeterred by his self-inflicted loss.

I have been incarcerated and separated from society for crimes I committed against society, as punishment. I get that. For me it means long-term or permanent loss of everything that we take for granted every day.

I will never own my own business, earn a paycheck, own or drive a car, own a cell phone, order a pizza, surf the Internet, eat seafood, go fishing, walk on a beach, own a home, sleep in my own bed, celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas with my family, get married, have an intimate relationship with children and grandchildren.

I am constantly reminded of these things every day. The world is passing me by. Cell phones and the Internet did not even exist when I came to prison. My incarceration is the other death penalty, warehoused for life, sentenced to die in prison. So, I know what it means to say, "You don't know what you've got till it's gone." And that is, perhaps, as it should be.

But the idea that I am incarcerated to be punished implies that you need to do more to me than I have already done to myself. In fact, it is exactly this ideology that is at the root of the prevailing mindset within DOC that it is somehow their job, duty and mission to further "punish inmates," to make the incarcerated miserable.

This goes way beyond punishment. It is an unjustified contempt and prejudice toward inmates by those who use their vested authority to oppress and abuse, under the guise of "corrections" — not too unlike a dictatorship or the plantations of our shameful past.

Indicative of this mindset is a statement attributed to one of our heads of security here: "If these inmates are smiling, then I am not doing my job." It is exactly this ideology, this mindset, which has led to systemic corruption, mismanagement and abuse — and has cultivated a culture of violence and callous indifference, where they feel completely justified in their actions and methodologies, that the ends justify the means.

Those who propagate and facilitate this ideology intentionally and maliciously inflict mental and emotional distress and create a dangerous, volatile and abusive environment for both inmates and officers alike.

Whatever happened to the Golden Rule, to treat others as you would have them to treat you? Whatever happened to ethics, integrity, professionalism and the fact that they have sworn to uphold the laws and Constitution of this state?

If you want to make the incarcerated miserable, you need only teach them the value of what they forfeited, remind them of it often and lead by example. But do not think that whatever privileges that are extended to me in a prison environment can ever offset or mitigate what I've done to myself.

Or, that the continued and ongoing punitive and abusive action, especially when unprovoked, will ever produce anything other than resentment, anger, fear and disregard for authority. "If the government becomes a law breaker, it breeds contempt for law." Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote in 1928.

It is somewhat a relief that these issues are finally receiving attention. The cycle of recidivism and financial burden is directly associated with Florida's "outmoded and abusive" practices. Many, including James McDonough, retired Air Force colonel and former secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections, have said that this is so deeply seated that it is irreparable. Were I only facing a few years of incarceration, and eventual release, I might be willing to hold my breath. But given DOC's current direction, and in light of recent events and rising inmate fatalities, nobody's release is guaranteed.

An ever larger segment of the inmate population is facing long-term or indefinite incarceration (the other death penalty), as well as abuse and violence at the hands of those whose mission is supposed to be care, custody and control — whose mottos are "When they succeed, we succeed" and "Changing lives to insure a safer Florida."

Sadly, history has shown that in many states prison reform only came on the heels of catastrophic meltdown, violence and bloodshed. For many it came too late.

Any talk of overhauling or reforming the Florida prison system must include addressing and rooting out this deep-seated and misguided mindset of "punishing inmates" and attempting to make them miserable; incarceration is, by its very nature, miserable, unnatural and abnormal. In failing to do so, Florida will only continue to pound square pegs into round holes, at a cost to its citizens and public safety, and the culture of corruption, violence and abuse will continue to evade any superficial and cosmetic attempts at change.

John Bundy is an inmate at Avon Park Correctional

June 3, 2015

A Mother's Nightmare - Her Son Was Killed by FL Department of Correction's Indifference and Medical Neglect

  • I am a mother whose life was shattered on March 3, 2015.

    There are two dates in my life that are the most important to me. In 1981, my first son was born. He is white, well educated and is now a professional living with his family in California. In 1996, my husband and I officially adopted my second son. Hanuman was black and died at the hands of a system that did not care if he lived or died. At the time of his death, he was 21 years old and incarcerated in the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC).

    Hanuman was diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease, when he was 17. He had previously been diagnosed with cognitive disabilities which were exacerbated by the lupus and the medications to treat it. In his teenage years, Hanuman committed several felony-worthy crimes with friends, and via the popular plea bargaining system, he was named, arrested and charged with burglary some months later. We asked the sentencing judge and prosecutor to consider Hanuman’s mitigating circumstances, asking for several alternatives to incarceration, but to no avail. He was sentenced to 6 years in prison. Once incarcerated, I made every legal attempt to draw the DOC’s attention to his medical needs and to get them met. His outside doctor and I wrote many letters to inform the prison doctors of the medical regimens that would be necessary to keep his lupus under control. I was terrified of what could happen to Hanuman in prison without the right medical care. My nightmares came true. He died only 11 months into his sentence.

    Hanuman was not given the appropriate medications while in prison, and he became very ill with weakness, cough, fever, loss of appetite and vomiting. At one point, he requested to go to the medical unit. He was seen by a nurse (the doctor refused to see him), given an aspirin and cough drops and sent back into general population. Several days later, a medical emergency was called and he was taken to the prison infirmary. Finally, he was transported to a local hospital where he was admitted in serious condition with seizures, renal failure, influenza and an exacerbation of his lupus.

    When in the hospital, my husband and I were granted 1 hour to visit our son. When I saw Hanuman I knew how sick he was. He lay in the hospital bed, shackled, barely able to walk. I wanted the medical staff that was treating him to know his extensive medical background so they could better care for him, which was welcomed by the doctor in charge of Hanuman’s care. In reports made later by Corrections personnel, I was accused of being abusive to the hospital staff and threatened to be escorted off hospital grounds by security. I felt I was not being treated with the same decency as any other worried mother simply because my son had been labeled a criminal.

    Upon discharge from the hospital, Hanuman was shackled sitting upright in the back of a prison van to be transported to a medical prison 4 hours away. There were no medical personnel assigned to attend to him during the transport, nor did the guards ever check on him during the ride. He was dead when they opened the door upon arrival at the prison. What happened in the back of that van and his cause of death are still unknown, but it does not appear that he died from natural causes. I paid for a private autopsy, and the preliminary report showed bruises which indicate that he was struggling at the end of his life. An excerpt written by hospital staff, quoted from a hospital record, states:

    “… the pt [patient] began yelling during transport at which time the guards demanded that he calm down, but never physically checked on the pt. When they arrived at the facility they noted the pt had expired.”

    This is the criminal justice system under which we live today.

    I have taken care of Hanuman since he was 13 months old. What I didn’t know then was that I would be thrust into a world of inhumanity unbeknownst to me. I didn’t know that I would be spending the rest of my life fighting for social reform because I had a child who had problems and that his problems would become my problems because I loved him and believed in a just world. I don’t claim that Hanuman didn’t do things that I consider wrong or that he shouldn’t have been held responsible for the wrongs that he did. However, I am upholding that he was a human being who needed to be treated with respect and dignity and he was not. He died after being in the hands of the Florida DOC after only 11 months as a result of medical neglect and inhumane care.

    I am pursuing legal action against the Department of Corrections / any and all parties that were responsible for Hanuman’s care while he was incarcerated. I’m pursuing action for possible medical negligence, wrongful death and violations of civil rights. Although an autopsy was performed by the local medical examiner’s office, I hired a private pathologist to perform a second autopsy because I could not trust that an honest and thorough autopsy would be done on someone labeled a criminal. Hanuman’s cause of death cannot be determined until we get his medical records released from the DOC. They are now stonewalling, putting up legal barriers to prevent my lawyer from obtaining these records. We are continuing to fight for them.

    Hanuman is not the only victim. Inmate deaths have been increasing in Florida prisons. Since 2014, there have been 444 deaths in the DOC. Investigative reports show that many are due to medical negligence and abuse, though for more than half of those 444 deaths, the cause of death is still pending, and many are under criminal investigation. The agency that investigates these deaths, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, is under fire for their inability to conduct thorough and timely investigations. The DOC is also riddled with cover-ups and inept at providing information like medical records to investigators, families and attorneys. It begs the question: Will justice ever be served?

    Hanuman was described by many as the one person who was always there when you needed him. I have suffered his loss, and my heart is broken. I mourn for him every day, and I can’t believe that I will never hold him in my arms again or see his smile. I want to know how and why he died and to hold people responsible for their neglect and lack of human decency.

    I am not alone in my fight for justice. I am not alone in my pain and anger. I join hands with those who have lost loved ones to police brutality and to the inept and brutal culture of the criminal justice system in the United States. I stand with those who are dedicated to end mass incarceration, with those who believe black lives matter and with all those who believe in civil rights for all people. I will not rest until I get answers and see changes. In Hanuman’s honor, I will persevere.

    Chandra Kantor
    Mother of Hanuman Joyce