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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Abuse of force continues to rise in Florida's prisons

13

January

Use of Force graphic

Violence in Florida’s state prisons continues to escalate as the use of force by corrections officers soared to an eight-year high in 2015-2016, newly released state figures show.

Use of force topped 7,300 incidents in the fiscal year ending June 30, the highest number of incidents since 2007-08. Inmate deaths in calendar year 2016 also rose slightly — from 354 to 366 — and remain at an all-time high. Murders and inmate-on-inmate assaults have more than doubled in the past six years, state records reveal.

Julie Jones, who took charge of the beleaguered prison system two years ago this month, said the proliferation of inmate gangs and the fact that nearly half of the 

Violence in Florida’s state prisons continues to escalate as the use of force by corrections officers soared to an eight-year high in 2015-2016, newly released state figures show.

Use of force topped 7,300 incidents in the fiscal year ending June 30, the highest number of incidents since 2007-08. Inmate deaths in calendar year 2016 also rose slightly — from 354 to 366 — and remain at an all-time high. Murders and inmate-on-inmate assaults have more than doubled in the past six years, state records reveal.

ulie Jones, who took charge of the beleaguered prison system two years ago this month, said the proliferation of inmate gangs and the fact that nearly half of the state’s corrections officers have less than two years of experience contributed to the uptick in violence.

 “I have inexperienced officers supervising inexperienced officers — plus a 41 percent increase in the gang population,” Jones said.

The department also continues to struggle with how to house a growing number of inmates with mental illness — and how to better train officers to deal with them.

“Mentally ill inmates receive more disciplinary reports, more use of force, more cell extractions and more mental health emergencies,” Jones said.

In the past decade and a half, the number of inmates with mental illness has risen 157 percent, she said. That spike has coincided with the closing of hospitals and other therapeutic facilities for the mentally ill.

The agency has been bitterly criticized by human rights groups and inmate families who allege that prisoners with mental illnesses are often abused, assaulted, neglected and even killed in the prison system.

The institutions with the most use-of-force cases are Union Correctional, Lake Correctional, Santa Rosa, Suwannee and Florida State Prison. With the exception of Florida State Prison, the other facilities all house units that treat inmates with mental illnesses.

Read more from Julie K. Brown here.

 

[Last modified: Friday, January 13, 2017 10:03am]

    

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