Proposed Florida Senate Bill Attempts to Reform One of the Deadliest Prison Systems in the Country
Investigations into Florida’s prison system have turned up considerable evidence pointing to prison misconduct and excessive force by Florida state prison officers. It has been reported that there have been almost 320 inmate deaths in 2014, one of the deadliest years for the Florida prison system; Florida boasts the third largest prison system nationwide with over 101,000 inmates and a budget of $2.1 billion. Though prison deaths have been attributed to the aging population of its inmates, what seems more indicative is the increase in the use of force by prison officers (almost doubling number of incidents) over the last five years. Since the introduction of these staggering numbers, the Department of Justice has been looking into the possible misconduct of its prison system, as well as reviewing any violations to the prisoner’s constitutional rights.
Investigations Leading to the Reform Bill
The Miami Herald has investigated a substantial number of excessive force claims, which have revealed the following:
- Two dozen officers have been fired for use of excessive force resulting in the death of inmates, but many of these officers have since been rehired.
- A database relating the causes of death of inmates who were found dead through accident, homicides, and suicides, found that 90 percent of Florida inmates’ deaths were revealed to be “natural”; this is a significantly high percentage of natural deaths not reflected in other, comparable state prison systems.
- An inmate mortality database, which is supposed to detail and explain inmate deaths with supplementary reports, has been redacted considerably to the point where most of the details are unreadable. The explanation surrounding the heavily redacted content is due to federal law prohibiting the release of medical information, and the only way many family members are able access the data is through legal assistance.
The Proposed Bill for Prison Reform
The Florida legislature is attempting to address these issues of constitutional violations and the excessive use of force within the state prison system with the drafting and discussion of a Senate proposal for prison reform.
The Role of the Florida Corrections Commission
The proposed Florida Senate bill will attempt to create an independent board, known as the Florida Corrections Commission, to oversee and supervise the Department of Corrections and execute stricter regulations to protect both inmates and prison officers and officials. The Florida Corrections Commission will be able to conduct civil and criminal investigations into internal affairs and any high incidences of unexplained inmate mortality or injury.
The Board will be able to monitor and visit high-risk correctional facilities whether announced or unannounced, investigate further into inmate-on-inmate and officer-on-inmate violence, and implement standards and policies to limit prison officer abuse and better protect inmates and whistleblowers from retaliatory actions.
The bill even creates a new third degree felony for all employees of the Department of Corrections who have willfully neglected an elderly or disabled inmate. The felony becomes a second degree felony if the willful negligence leads to harm of the inmate.
Opposition to the Bill Builds
Though the bill attempts to address and rectify the obvious misconduct that is pervasive throughout Florida’s prison system, opposition is building as the bill requires a significant amount of money to mount the reform. The proposal would call for $16.5 million to train and hire additional staff and another $15 million to make necessary repairs to the many aging prisons throughout the state.
Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale
Inmate injury and mortality are on the rise, and it is important as a defendant that you have an advocate to defend you and hopefully keep you out of one of the deadliest prison systems in the country. It is important to speak with an experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik if you or a loved one has been arrested for a criminal offense with a long prison sentence attached. Contact the Law Offices of Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation.