DOC Secretary interviews 17 for top four jobs, most of them current prison directors
The former head of the State of Illinois’ Department of Corrections and 12 current Florida wardens and regional prison directors are among the list of candidates being interviewed by Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones in her search to fill the four top jobs to manage the state’s prison system.
In August, Jones asked the 12 top officials in charge of prisons and probation to reapply for their jobs as part of a major realignment designed to centralize power at the agency. As part of the exercise, she accepted 71 applications for the three existing regional director of institutions jobs and the open post at a newly added fourth region. She has now narrowed the list to 17. Download Applicants Names for Regional Director of Institution Advertisement (1)
Among them are current regional chiefs Sam Culpepper, Eric Lane and Randy Tifft, as well as assistant regional directors Rodney Tomlinson and Larry Mayo. All of those officials have been at the helm during one of the most brutal periods in Department of Corrections history as the number of inmates who died of unnatural causes reached record numbers, use of force was at a five-year high, and the agency was forced to fire and discipline officers involved with inmate abuse.
Also applying for the regional director of institutions jobs are regional wardens Jennifer Folsom and Brian Riedl, Lake County Correctional Institution warden Erich Von Hummel, Suwannee Correctional Institution Warden Thomas Reid, Tomoka Correctional Institution Warden Terry Royal, Zephyrhills Correctional Institution Warden Jeffrey Trovillion; Charlotte Correctional Institution Warden John Willis, Central Florida Reception Center Warden Michael Morgan. Michael Pavicic, a Fort Myers resident who formerly worked as a corrections officer at the Cuyahoga County sheriff’s department in Ohio has also applied.
Only four applicants are from outside Florida: James Dzurenda, deputy commissioner for the New York City Department of Correction and Salvador "Tony" Godinez, former head of the Illinois prison system who retired in March after a new governor was elected, Milon Woolf, warden at the the Idaho Department of Corrections and Gary Albrecht, a contract officer with the U.S. military command in Afghanistan, overseeing corrections education and training.
Godinez was head of that Illinos’ sixth largest agency with 78,000 inmates and 11,000 employees. He came under fire last year after a Chicago Sun-Times investigation found that the agency permitted a former gang member with a lengthy criminal record to be hired as an advisor to the chief of parole. During Godinez’s four-year tenure, the agency struggled with overcrowding issues as then Gov. Pat Quinn sought to close prisons and halfway houses.
The interviews come a result of a May 8 executive order, and initiated by Jones, that attempts to increase accountability at the agency by tightening regulations relating to the use of force, protecting employees from retaliation when they report wrongdoing, and improving the tracking of chemical agents used to subdue disruptive inmates.
For the last two years, the Miami Herald has chronicled the stories of deadly abuse in Florida’s prisons, as well as staff cover-ups and intimidation tactics used to quiet complaints by inmates and prison officials. Here are the incidents by region and the officials in charge:
INCIDENTS BY REGION
Region 1: Sam Culpepper, regional director; Rodney Tomlinson, assistant regional director
▪ Northwest Florida Reception Center — June 2010: Rommell Johnson, 44, an asthmatic inmate with severe breathing problems, is repeatedly gassed in confinement. The state later pays his mother $175,000 in a wrongful death lawsuit.
▪ Northwest Florida Reception Center — Aug. 2014: Five corrections officers beat a handcuffed and shackled Jeremiah Tatum, 31. A captain, James Kirkland, and four officers, are charged. Kirkland commits suicide in December.
▪ Franklin CI — Sept. 2010: Randall Jordan-Aparo, 27, a check forger, dies after being repeated blasted with chemicals while pleading for medical assistance. Death is the subject of an ongoing FBI investigation.
▪ Franklin CI — July 2014: Two officers brutally beat an inmate and then allegedly lie to cover up their actions. The U.S. Department of Justice brings charges against the officers a year later.
▪ Santa Rosa CI — March 2012: Ricky Martin, 24, is savagely beaten to death in his cell, hours after corrections officers placed Shawn Rogers, a much larger man with a history of bloody attacks on cellmates, in his cell. Witnesses say guards ignored Martin’s pleas for help and Rogers’ hollering that he was going to kill Martin.
▪ Santa Rosa CI — Sept. 2013: Jerry Washington, 56, dies of a drug overdose, one week after he tells his family that officers had threatened to kill him for filing a sexual harassment complaint against staff. His death is ruled a suicide, although inmates claim he was poisoned by staff.
Region 2: Eric Lane, regional director; Duane Spears, assistant regional director
▪ Lowell CI — July 2009: Inmate Bernadette Gregory, 42, is found hanging from a bed sheet days after she wrote a complaint against officers who had been ridiculing her because she was in a wheelchair. Death is ruled a suicide and never investigated.
▪ Lowell CI — Oct. 2014: Latandra Ellington, a 36-year-old mother of four, is found dead less than 24 hours after she told her family and prison officials that an officer had threatened to kill her.
▪ Lake Butler Reception Center — Nov. 2014: Two corrections officers and a former officer trainee — part of a KKK affiliate — allegedly hatch a plot to kill in inmate. The officers are arrested in a federal sting several months later.
▪ Suwanee, CI — June 2015: Two corrections officers attack two restrained inmates during a counseling session and allegedly lie about it to cover it up. They are arrested a month later on charges of battery and falsifying records, both misdemeanors.
▪ Lake City CI — July 2015: An 18-year-old inmate, imprisoned on burglary charges, is repeatedly sprayed in the face with chemical agents, apparently for no reason. An officer officer is arrested.
▪ Union CI — Sept. 2012: Frank Smith, 44, dies after a violent encounter with officers. The death, still under investigation by FDLE, led to the firing of 10 employees. At the time of Smith’s death, the prison system was probing five other cases at Union in which officers were suspected of using excessive force.
Region 3: Randy Tifft, regional director; Larry Mayo, assistant regional director
▪ Charlotte CI — May 2008: Corrections officer intentionally gouges out the eye of an inmate during a cell extraction. When one officer objects he is harassed and eventually fired. Eye gouger eventually charged by feds and sent to prison.
▪ Charlotte CI — April 2014: Matthew Walker is beaten to death by staff following a cell extraction. A state grand jury later says it can’t pursue charges because officers discarded evidence and gave conflicting testimony.
▪ Charlotte CI — Aug. 2015: Quonta Howard, 35, dies under mysterious circumstances. It is the seventh suspicious death under criminal probe at the prison.
▪ Dade CI — June 2012: Darren Rainey, a 50-year-old mentally ill prisoner, dies after being locked in a scalding shower for two hours. Inmates and others say the shower was used as a makeshift torture chamber, but their concerns are disregarded.
▪ Dade CI — Sept. 2013: Richard Mair, 40, another mentally ill prisoner, hangs himself, leaving a suicide note charging he was physically, sexually and mentally abused at the prison by staff. FDOC doesn’t investigate.
▪ Dade CI — Oct. 2014: Ronald “Psycho” McCoy, an armed robber serving two life sentences, walks away on Halloween. Prison officials don’t notify local authorities until the Herald gets a tip and inquires. He is captured in Palm Beach a few days later.