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Prisons chief suspends two guards over inmate collapse

Thursday, May 27th, 2010 by Dara Kam

dreadDepartment of Corrections Secretary Walt McNeil suspended two prison guards involved in the collapse of 20-year-old inmate Samuel Dread who remains in critical condition after exercising on Monday.

McNeil placed correctional officers Sgt. Michael Devanie and James Barry on administrative leave with pay after learning of “conflicting witness statements,” according to a press release issued by McNeil’s office this morning.

Dread collapsed after exercising for several hours in the 86 degree heat as part of an extended day program at Lancaster Correctional Institution near Gainesville on Monday, his first day at the boot-camp style program for youthful offenders. Dread remains in critical condition after being placed into a medically-induced coma.

“Out of an abundance of caution, I have placed these officers on administrative leave until this issue is resolved. The mission of this department is public safety, and that includes the safety of our 102,000 inmates, a responsibility I take very seriously,” said McNeil. “If any wrongdoing has occurred, appropriate, swift action will be taken. In the meantime, these officers will have no further contact with inmates.”

Gov. Charlie Crist ordered the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the incident, saying there are questions about whether prescription medications Dread was taking required him to avoid extreme heat.

“I have every assurance that the investigation will be thorough and complete and at the conclusion we’ll know all the facts in this case,” McNeil said in a statement.

Read related story on PalmBeachPost.com

UPDATE: Senate budget chief privatization push would shut down three state prisons, axe at least 639 guards

Thursday, March 25th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander just got a reluctant Senate Ways and Means Committee to sign off on his prison privatization plan that would shut down three prisons and put more than 600 prison guards out of work.

Alexander’s late-filed budget amendment, offered during the committee meeting this afternoon, drew protests from the PBA and some committee members, including Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Committee Chairman Victor Crist.

Alexander’s plan is to open the new Blackwater prison in the Panhandle, a 1,350-bed facility the state paid more than $160 million to build but is not yet operating. Boca Raton-based private corrections company Geo Group would run the prison, Alexander said, saving the state about $20 million a year and doing away with 639 prison guard jobs. The state corrections department would be ordered to shut down two prisons to fill the 2,200-bed facility, saving the state about $24 million a year, according to Alexander’s amendment.

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Lawmaker has a beef with DOC ‘food loaf’

Thursday, February 4th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Food loaf. It’s what inmates hope isn’t for dinner.

As if prison food isn’t bad enough already, naughty inmates are fed a mystery “meat” called “food loaf.”

What exactly the loaf is made up of and what prisoners do to warrant the punishing meal isn’t clear either.

“Food loaf” is also known as called “meal management loaf,” “nutri-loaf” or “behavioral loaf in prison circles. In some prisons the concoction is made up of all of the day’s food put into a blender with some oats thrown in and baked into a loaf.

It is given in some prisons to unruly inmates who throw their food trays at correctional officers and was served in the past to Florida inmates with no utensils.

Currently, inmates in Vermont are suing prison officials over the use of the food loaf and which some states have banned.

Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, asked Department of Corrections Chief of Staff Richard Prudhom at this morning’s Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations meeting morning to give her, in writing, the caloric value of the mystery package and the department policy on offenses that result in the loaf.

Prudhom said he will report back.

The state spends $2.33 a day for three meals and a snack on the 100,000 prisoners behind bars.

Choosy corrections dept. chooses cheaper PB & J

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009 by Dara Kam

The peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that are a staple of state prisoners’ diet aren’t just nutritionally filling.

They’re also saving money and jobs, according to the Department of Corrections.

DOC officials came to the rescue of Tampa peanut butter manufacturer Ernest Turbeville, whose business was flailing when he sent an e-mail to Gov. Charlie Crist earlier this year.

Turbeville was unsuccessful in getting DOC’s food vendor to contract with his Sunshine Peanut Company.

By the time he wrote to Crist in March, DOC had already fired its vendors and taken food service back in-house.

Turbeville said he could keep the 14 workers at the Jackonsville-based company on the job for about three weeks.

The agency signed on with Turbeville, according to a press release issued by DOC this morning, and saved the state $200,000 by buying the peanut butter from him.

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50 the new 30? In prisons, yes

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009 by Dara Kam

The Florida Department of Corrections is worried about the aging population of its inmates.

The department has more than 14,000 geriatric inmates, nearly 15 percent of the 100,000-plus prisoners behind bars, DOC officials reported to a Senate committee this morning.

That might seem a bit high, but a sheepish DOC official gave this explanation: the department considers inmates over the age of 50 to be “geriatric.”

“Don’t shoot the messenger,” DOC governmental affairs director Katie Cunningham told the panel – only two of whom are younger than 50. Committee Chairwoman Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, is 48 and Sen. Ted Deutch, a Democrat from Boca Raton, is 43.

DOC has special geriatric dorms but wants to add more “old age” beds because the prison population is growing older as more baby boomers enter the system.

Lawmakers are likely to reconsider an idea that went nowhere last year to pare down the number of elderly prisoners: let them go home.

One option would be to make it easier for feeble or terminally ill prisoners to be released so their relatives or someone other than state taxpayers could pick up the tab for their care. That option would only be available to prisoners who aren’t dangerous.

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