Sunday, June 24, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Reforming Florida's prisons

The state Department of Corrections appears to be serious about making systemic changes in prisons. Thirty-two officers were fired last week for violations ranging from participating in the gassing death of an inmate to using force against prisoners. The firings are the latest in a series of housecleaning efforts, and the department took an important first step toward transparency earlier this month when it launched an online database detailing inmate deaths. These are positive steps toward Department of Corrections Secretary Mike Crews' promise to make the agency and its workers more accountable and transparent. But it will be a long-term endeavor to reform a department that has long been resistant to change.

The corrections department is under scrutiny after a series of Miami Herald reports this spring that examined suspicious inmate deaths in Florida prisons. The newspaper found several cases where inmates died after being abused or neglected by corrections officers. Darren Rainey, 50, collapsed and died in 2012 after guards left him in a scalding shower for nearly two hours. Rainey, who was mentally ill, was being punished for defecating in his cell and refusing to clean it up. Corrections department officials said allegations of abuse and subsequent coverups were the result of a few bad apples and that the entire staff would be held to greater account.

In August, Crews pledged systemwide reforms, including getting rid of staff who broke the law or department policy. On Friday, 32 officers employed at prisons around the state were fired, including three former guards at Franklin Correctional Institution who were connected with the gassing death of 27-year-old Randall Jordan-Aparo. So far this month, Crews has fired 45 officers around the state for violations ranging from battering inmates to driving with a suspended license.

Earlier in the month, the department launched the transparency database, which is located at www.dc.state.fl.us/pub/mortality/index.html and is searchable by facility. It allows users to view the status of each investigation and manner of death. It includes summary reports for all 2014 closed, non-natural death investigations that are conducted by the department. It will eventually contain information for all inmate deaths over a 14-year period.

Given the nature of prisons, the potential for abuse is rampant. And Florida has had its share of prison problems, including at the highest levels. In 2006, for example, former corrections Secretary James Crosby resigned and went to federal prison for accepting kickbacks from prison vendors.

It should not have taken pressure from the media to get the corrections department to institute major reforms. But now that it has, the department should be commended for moving quickly to implement its new disciplinary policy for wayward employees and for opening its records. Both are good starts in an attempt to change a culture that has long operated unchecked by outsiders. Crews should keep it up.

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Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Itís hard to pick the biggest outrage in the financial and ethical swamp that has swallowed Tampa Bayís two primary job placement agencies, CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay. Is it the boiler room atmosphere where CareerSource recruite...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18

Family separation crisis is not over

The family-separation crisis that President Donald Trump created is not over. The executive order Trump signed Wednesday purporting to end the routine tearing of children from their undocumented parents stands on uncertain legal ground. U.S. border a...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Veterans can help veterans deal with trauma resulting from military service in a way no one else can. Thatís the theory behind a special hotline set up in the Tampa Bay area that proponents are hoping to take statewide.The expansion would cost some $...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney generalís misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect ó prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18