Saturday, September 22, 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: Florida needs uniform standards for voting by mail

Editorial: Florida needs uniform standards for voting by mail

Vote by mail has been a stunning success in Florida, increasing turnout and making it easy and convenient to cast a ballot with time to research and reflect. But a new study shows that mail ballots cast by African-American, Hispanic or younger voters...
Published: 09/21/18
Editorial: Borrowers need protection from Marlin Financial

Editorial: Borrowers need protection from Marlin Financial

State and federal lending regulations exist to protect consumers from being surprised — and overwhelmed — by ballooning debt. Marlin Financial, a shadowy auto lender doing business around Florida, seems to be skirting those protections ...
Published: 09/21/18
Editorial: Putnam hire stinks of patronage, secrecy

Editorial: Putnam hire stinks of patronage, secrecy

In addition to a lesson on political patronage, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam needs a refresher on the particulars of state public records law.In January 2017, Putnam hired the 27-year-old son of a former Publix executive to a high-pay...
Published: 09/20/18
Editorial: Investigate first, then hold Kavanaugh confirmation vote

Editorial: Investigate first, then hold Kavanaugh confirmation vote

There should be a timely investigation of the allegation of sexual assault against Judge Brett Kavanaugh before senators hear from him and his accuser, let alone vote on whether they should confirm his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. The proces...
Published: 09/20/18
Editorial: Immigrants help to make America great

Editorial: Immigrants help to make America great

The heated debate on immigration could benefit from some more facts, which the U.S. Census has helpfully provided. And the facts show that rather than building walls, the United States would do far better to keep opening doors to legal immigrants. Th...
Published: 09/19/18
Updated: 09/20/18
Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

The federal Food and Drug Administration is bringing important scrutiny to the increasing use of e-cigarettes, requiring companies that make and sell them to show they are keeping their products away from minors. Vaping is the new front in the nation...
Published: 09/18/18

Tuesday’s letters: Honor Flight restored my faith in America

Dogs are the best | Letter, Sept. 15Honor Flight restored my faith in AmericaJust as I was about to give up on our country due to divisiveness and and the divisions among its people and politicians, my pride was restored. As a member of the recen...
Published: 09/17/18
Updated: 09/19/18

Editorial cartoons for Sept. 18

From Times wires
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

The Senate and the nation needs to hear more about the sexual assault allegation against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Setting aside Kavanaugh's judicial record, his political past and the hyper-partisan divide over his nomination, a no...
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

The Tampa City Council has yet to hear a compelling reason to allow a private social club in a residential neighborhood off Bayshore Boulevard, and a final meeting on the matter scheduled for Thursday offers the council a chance to show the diligence...
Published: 09/14/18