prison

State, Groups Wage Court Fights Over Solitary Confinement

Nov 12, 2019
WMFE

In separate but parallel lawsuits, civil-rights and legal groups are challenging Florida’s use of solitary confinement in prisons and juvenile detention centers —- but are facing pushback from state agencies. 

Going to jail can mean losing everything, including your identification card. Traffic tickets and fines can pile up, and bureaucracy can be tough to navigate. And sometimes, people can’t get jobs, or housing, and end up back in jail.

The Sarasota County Jail has a new program that helps inmates get proper identification before they are released. The hope is that these basic steps will cut down on repeat jail terms.

Robin Wallace thought her years of working as a counselor in addiction treatment gave her a decent understanding of the system. She has worked in private and state programs in Massachusetts and with people who were involuntarily committed to treatment.

So in 2017, as her 33-year-old son, Sean Wallace, continued to struggle with heroin use — after years of coping with mental health issues and substance use — she thought she was making the right choice in forcing him into treatment.

In a windowless classroom at the John J. Moran medium-security prison in Cranston, R.I., three men sit around a table to share how and when they began using opioids.

For Josh, now 39, it was when he was just 13 years old. "I got grounded for a week in my house, so I grabbed a bundle of heroin and just sat inside and sniffed it all week."

"I started using heroin at 19," says Ray, now 23. "I was shooting it. It was with a group of friends that I was working with, doing roof work."

The Florida Department of Corrections has opened a new mental health facility in Wakulla County.

Wikimedia Commons

Accusing them of ignorance and bigotry, a federal judge this week excoriated Florida corrections officials for refusing to accommodate a transgender inmate, despite the prisoner’s repeated suicide attempts and persistent requests to wear bras and panties and to have access to women’s grooming items.

Jason Bellows was a Florida inmate on his way out of prison and back into the real world. 

FOX 13

As Florida continues to deal with an opioid crisis, state corrections officials are moving ahead on a plan to cut substance-abuse services to make up a shortfall in health-care funding for the prison system.

Florida has one of the largest prison populations in the U.S. As of 2016, there were 99,000 people incarcerated in the state. The number peaked in 2011 with roughly 102,300 people in prison.

A bill that would steer more Florida drug offenders to diversion programs rather than prisons is moving forward.

Since the 1970s, the hard on crime ethos has fueled the era of mass incarceration. Simultaneously, the country defunded public mental health services. A ballooning criminal justice system came in to fill that vacuum. Now the Florida Legislature is poised to reform the way mental illness is handled in that system.

Florida Prisons Sued Over Treatment Of Disabled Inmates

Jan 27, 2016
Florida prison
Associated Press

A group representing disabled inmates has filed a federal lawsuit accusing Florida prison officials of discriminating against prisoners who are deaf, blind or confined to wheelchairs, in violation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

The head of the Florida Department of Corrections says she’s asking the legislature for more funds to hire more correctional officers to help with the understaffing problem. And, Governor Rick Scott says he’s backing her amended legislative request.

The Florida Department of Corrections continues to undergo staffing troubles, roofs need repairs, and salary parity is still a main concern among correctional officers. That’s according to a recently completed study looking into the operations of the prison agency.

Biking Behind Bars: Female Inmates Battle Weight Gain

Oct 11, 2015

The gym at Riverside Correctional Facility in Philadelphia is through the metal detector, two heavy doors and down the hall.

There's a basketball court like one you'd see at any high school, except there's a corrections officer on guard near the 3-point line.

Sixteen stationary bikes are set up in a half-circle in the corner. On bike No. 2, Lakiesha Montgomery, 32, from Philadelphia, is pedaling fast and singing along to the Nicki Minaj song "Fly."

"I didn't think I'd be able to keep up; I'm not the skinniest thing in the bunch," she says.

Associated Press

Three Floridians are looking at stretches in prison after pleading guilty to a conspiracy to acquire and distribute the illegal synthetic drug known as "spice."

All three are from the Tampa area. Pleading guilty to a pair of federal drug conspiracy charges were 28-year-old Ahmed Yehia Khalifa and 25-year-old Ahmed Maher Elhelw. They face up to 20 years in prison on each charge and have agreed to forfeit more than $472,000 in assets.

Gov. Rick Scott has appointed Julie Jones to lead Florida’s prison system, the Miami Herald reports. It will be the first time a woman will lead the Department of Corrections. Jones comes to the DOC after leading the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, and will replace Mike Crews, who announced his resignation last month. The prison system has been plagued by inmate deaths and abuse, the Herald reports.

The family of a man strangled to death by his roommate at Aventura Hospital and Medical Center has filed a wrongful death lawsuit, the Miami Herald reports. Raul Alexander Rios, 32, was being treated in the hospital’s psychiatric ward. His roommate, Alexander Thadeus Jackson, 31, is in jail, charged with murder.

While U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has ordered federal prosecutors to back away from “draconian” sentences for lower-level drug offenders, changing Florida’s drug laws and mindset could prove difficult, the Miami Herald reports. 

Even as Florida’s crime rate has declined over the past four decades, the prison population has grown with non-violent, first-time offenders, mostly for small quantities of prescription drugs.

Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office

A Delray Beach man convicted of scamming the elderly out of thousands of dollars will remain free a little longer -- until his antibiotic-resistant infection has healed, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. One of the con man’s attorneys persuaded a judge it would be a hazard, since his client occasionally has pus seeping from his fingers.

After a two-year legal fight, a private company will soon run Florida’s prison health care system, the Tampa Bay Times reports. Tennessee-based Corizon Inc., the country’s largest private provider of inmate care, will take over Aug. 1. State workers who lose their jobs can apply to work for the private company but will lose state pensions and benefits.

A Jacksonville man who used and returned about a dozen enemas to a CVS pharmacy was sentenced to 30 months in prison, The Florida Times-Union reports. 

Some of the enema kits returned by Ronald Eugene Robinson were sold to other customers, who had no idea the products had been tampered with.

The recidivism rate -- the chance that inmates who are released will be re-arrested and sent back -- has dropped by about 5 percentage points since 2002, the Florida Current reports. In addition to improving public safety, the apparent improvement in released prisoners’ behavior saved taxpayers a lot of money.