Head of Department of Corrections South Florida region resigns
With the Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones expected to announce next week who she will keep and who gets reassigned at the troubled agency, the head of Region III, Randy Tifft, announced Wednesday that he is resigning.
"It has come time for me and my family to change the chapter in our life and for me to retire from the Department of Corrections,'' Tifft said in a letter to Jones and members of the agency. "Over the last 26 years I have been fortunate to work in every region in the state with 11 different assignments. This was challenging for my family while also being a blessing to meet and work with so many great people."
In August, Jones announced she was asking the regional directors and their deputies to reapply for their jobs as part of a major realignment designed to centralize power at the agency. In September, Jones said she was conducting interviews in September for 12 of the jobs, including the directors of the four regions.
The list of finalists included current regional chiefs Sam Culpepper, Eric Lane and Randy Tifft, as well as assistant regional directors Rodney Tomlinson and Larry Mayo, all of whom had been in positions of authority during one of the most brutal periods in Department of Corrections history.
During that time, according to records obtained by the Miami Herald, 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.
Legislators have been supportive of Jones, but have called for a "culture change" at the agency. Jones has refused to assign blame to the top officials and an agency press release said, in response to two years of reports in the Miami Herald chronicling inmate and abuse and neglect, that regional directors supervise more the 5,000 correctional officers in more than 15 correctional institutions and "work tirelessly to engage our staff, statewide, often responding to incidents which occur hundreds of miles away from their homes and offices at every hour of the day and night."
FDC also has defended the agency's leadership team, saying that in 2014-15, the agency had a decline in the use of force incidents and has adjusted its policies "to ensure the safety of those in our facilities and the accountability of our agency and staff."
Here is Tifft's full letter, and below that a partial list of adverse incidents involving inmates in Region III and FDC's response:
From: Office of the Secretary
Sent: Wednesday, January 6, 2016 1:49 PM
Subject: Regional Director Randy Tifft Retirement
Friends and Colleagues,
It has come time for me and my family to change the chapter in our life and for me to retire from the Department of Corrections. Over the last 26 years I have been fortunate to work in every region in the state with 11 different assignments. This was challenging for my family while also being a blessing to meet and work with so many great people. With each move my family and I have been welcomed by the staff and created long lasting friendships. We overcame many obstacles together and I learned so much from all the staff I have worked with. I could never begin to list all the names because so many people have had an impact on me during my career. I will never forget those who mentored me and guided me through my career. I have learned so much from each of you and will never forget you. My level of success was because of the staff in this agency and not necessarily my skills or abilities. There were so many people that impacted me personally and professionally and I am internally grateful.
We have had a lot of accomplishments through the years and overcame many obstacles. That was possible due to the professionalism and drive for success the staff of this agency has. I encourage you to never lose site of the goal and strive hard each day to get there. Never let obstacles slow you and never accept the normal. Push forward and strive for excellence because it's in all of you. This agencies most important asset is the staff. I am confident there are great things that are going to happen in this agency in the coming days. Keep "Raising the Bar"! Be safe and I wish all of you great things in your career. I can say without hesitation, I love all of you and wish you well. May you and your family be blessed.
Thanks for the terrific ride.
Randy P. Tifft
Director of Institutions
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.
FDC response: The OIG is currently conducting an administrative investigation into the death of Matthew Walker. None of the officers involved in this incident are assigned to posts with inmate contact.
▪ Charlotte CI — Aug. 2015: Quonta Howard, 35, dies under mysterious circumstances. It is the seventh suspicious death under criminal probe at the prison.
FDC response: The death of Quonta Howard is currently under investigation by FDLE, pursuant to the Department’s MOU with that agency. We are unsure as to how the Herald could accurately classify this death as occurring under “mysterious circumstances” prior to the conclusion of the FDLE investigation and the facts of the case being known.
▪ 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. The case is now under investigation by federal authorities.
▪ 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 clears the officers accused.
FDC response: The OIG did investigate the death of Richard Mair. The investigation is available HERE
▪ 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.
FDC response: Regional leadership worked tirelessly with local and state law enforcement to assist with the capture of Ronald McCoy. The OIG is currently conducting a criminal investigation into this escape, with the full support and cooperation of regional leadership.