Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Florida’s new corrections department secretary is shutting down three prisons, two boot camps and a road prison. DOC Secretary Edwin Buss said the closures will save the state $30.8 million this year and $25 million annually in the future.
The Department will close the Brevard Correctional Institution (CI) in Cocoa, Hendry CI in Immokalee, Hillsborough CI in Riverview, Tallahassee Road Prison in Tallahassee, Lowell CI Boot Camp and Sumter Boot Camp. Additionally the Department will move close management inmates out of Charlotte CI in Punta Gorda to three other prisons.
The department has a surplus of beds for the first time in recent history (how is that possible). The phase out plan will begin immediately with a target completion date of June 30, 2011. No inmates will be released early because of the cost-saving consolidations and employees will be offered jobs in other institutions, the Department of Corrections said.
With a current population of 101,711 prisoners, the system has a surplus of cell space, so no inmates will be released early. The Hillsborough closing will affect 141 staff and 292 prisoners. It is a female faith and character-based institution and the women will be moved to Lowell and the Lowell work camp, temporarily. The staff at Hillsborough will be offered positions at Hardee, Hernando, Zephyrhills, Demilly and Polk Correctional Institutions.
Lowell Correctional Institution and the Lowell work camp have a curent female inmate of 3,000 with a toal staff of 619, it is the oldest state facility for women and opened in April 1956 as Florida C.I., housing all custody levels including death row. Lowell Correctional Institution has open bay housing units (dorm style) so how do you add 292 more female inmates to the already 3,000 and not be overcrowded in the no-air condition dorms from the 1950’s with lead paint on the walls and abestos tiles on the floor?
The Lowell Correctional Institution, is north of Ocala. Male officers are sometimes present during many of the private moments in the lives of women prisoners at Lowell CI, when they dress and undress, take showers, or go to the toilet. Still more of a problem is that in almost all states male guards are permitted to carry out pat-down searches of female inmates, touching women through their clothes, including their breasts and genitals.
An female inmate at Lowell Correctional Facility filed a federal lawsuit against the prison warden and other state officials in 2009, alleging that overcrowding, understaffing and a culture of deliberate indifference at the all-female prison in Ocala caused her to suffer repeated instances of sexual misconduct by a male corrections officer.
The woman, whose name is withheld because of the nature of her allegations, names the secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections and Florida Inspector General among those who allegedly failed to provide meaningful and effective policy and procedures for inmates to report abusive behavior.
The plaintiff, a 27-year-old woman, claims she was subject to multiple instances of sexual assault by Troy Saunders, a former male corrections officer, while she was incarcerated at Lowell in December 2005 and again in June 2007.
In the complaint, the woman claims she was removed from her cell by the officer and taken to a staff bathroom where she was “assaulted, battered, and sexually molested and abused,” on more than one occasion in December 2005. She alleges she was threatened by Saunders following the assaults, told she would be “punished, locked up and placed in solitary confinement if she mentioned anything to anyone.”
The inmate did not file a complaint because she eventually was transferred to a different dorm and knew she would soon be leaving the facility, according to the suit. But she returned to Lowell for a separate matter in June 2007, when she alleges the abuse by Saunders resumed.
The lawsuit questions why prison officials failed to investigate the long absences of both officer and inmate during the alleged assaults, and asserts that no effective method of reporting the incidents was in place. “The lack of adequate procedures for reporting incidents by inmates, and the failure to properly investigate and monitor ongoing situations compounded the threat to the inmates,” alleges the lawsuit, filed in Florida’s Middle District.
Saunders, court records show, later was charged with sexual misconduct with an inmate, a third-degree felony, and served a year in jail after pleading guilty. He is no longer employed at Lowell. According to an arrest report, Saunders, 41, had been the subject of at least eight other suspected cases of sexual misconduct with female inmates during his employment (it appears he raped 9 total).
Lowell, the oldest state corrections facility for women, houses nearly 3,000 female offenders at all security levels at its main facility and satellite units. The prison employs 619 corrections officers, a little more than half those being women. The warden at Lowell, and a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Corrections declined to comment about the lawsuit.
Inmates at Lowell Correctional Facility can file grievances against corrections officers. In October 2007, the woman met with agents from the Inspector General’s Office of the prison after having filed such a formal written complaint against Saunders. She was asked to wear a secret recording device in order to “bait” the corrections officer during his next sexual request. According to the complaint, she met with Saunders in a private staff bathroom but no inspectors intervened, as they had assured, before the alleged assault took place.
Bill Warner Private Investigator, SEX, CRIME, CHEATERS & TERRORISM.