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FL Fires 13 Prison Employees in Crackdown

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Florida Department of Corrections
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

 State prison officials did some major house cleaning this week, firing 13 people in the wake of widespread abuse allegations.

The Florida Department of Corrections on Friday announced the dismissal of three officers and two sergeants for punching and kicking a prisoner at Lancaster Correctional Institution.

Another officer was fired for a DUI arrest and another for driving with a suspended license.

On Thursday, the department fired six other prison staffers for hitting an inmate at Northwest Florida Reception Center in Chipley while the prisoner's hands and legs were shackled.

The crackdown comes after allegations of systemic abuse and failure to punish guards when inmates are harmed. Last week, the department announced a new zero-tolerance policy for employee misconduct.

"The action we have taken this week makes it clear that we will not tolerate inappropriate behavior or criminal activity by our staff," Crews said in a statement. "We value our culture of professionalism and integrity, and we will not let the bad actions of a few undermine and tarnish the reputations of all the hard working men and women in our department."

Crews has given the Florida Department of Law Enforcement the authority to investigate deaths at its prisons. That agency will now take the lead on some 82 open cases.

Meanwhile, a mental health advocacy group on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the department, alleging officials and contractors ignored widespread abuse of mentally ill inmates in a Miami prison.

The lawsuit highlights the case of guards at Dade Correctional Institution, who left a patient alone for two hours in a locked, scalding hot shower as punishment for defecating in his cell and refusing to clean it up. He later died. The warden at Dade Correctional was fired. No criminal charges have been brought.

Also Wednesday, an officer resigned after one of the prisoners on his work crew took a bathroom break in the woods in Pasco County and never returned.