Imagine a prison system in which a person a day dies — one man every day of the year. This unsurprisingly takes place in a land with the highest incarceration rate in the world.
This isn’t North Korea or Iran.
|Hearses waiting at Florida DoC © WFSU|
We’re talking Florida’s lucrative privatized prison system in a land that competes in executions with Texas and a couple of other states, but this isn’t about capital punishment…
We’re talking about ordinary prisoners who hoped one day to get out but died at the hands of other prisoners or … commonly… prison guards. Indeed, a Santa Rosa Correctional Institute inmate complained in letters to his family and in legal filings he’d been sexually assaulted by guards and his life had been threatened if he talked. He talked. He died. And so have others.
|Gerald Bailey © Bill Cotterell|
State Archives of Florida
In September, more than thirty guards were fired for sexual assault, physical abuse, starving, poisoning, gassing, or beating inmates to death and in one case, killing a prisoner who'd soiled himself by steaming him alive. The Governor’s office and the Attorney General dismissed the allegations. Not one guard has been arrested or indicted.
Maybe you’re one of those people who thinks prisoners deserve all they get. They deserve rancid, moldy, vermin-infested food. They deserve rape. They deserve beatings. And damn it, if they get killed in prison, they deserve that too. Or perhaps you simply believe in the right of a company to protect the bottom line and not the general population.
I staunchly support free enterprise, but there’s a problem here. Traditional prisons were subject to oversight by its citizens. Not now. A corporation owes responsibility only to its stock holders… and perhaps the political cronies who landed them the contract.
Beatings, rapes, and killings are taking place in your name and mine. Not everyone approves. Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey thought that was a problem.
|Fl. Gov. Rick Scott © Miami New Times|
Remember that name, Commissioner Gerald Bailey, the head of Florida’s law enforcement. Because Rick Scott brought the private sector corruption he was infamous for into the public realm.
Good Cop, Bad SOP
Under Bailey, the FDLE was investigating those suspicious prison inmate deaths, assisted the search for juvenile remains at the former Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, and was looking into the destruction of emails following Scott’s transition into office in 2010. The Governor was not pleased.
|“The most shocking thing was being ordered to target another individual without any justification. I don't know why this woman was in the cross hairs.”
— FDLE's Gerald Bailey
The Governor’s office expressed concerns that State Representative Alan Williams of Tallahassee was fomenting student sit-ins at the state capitol and asked Bailey’s office to keep them posted about Williams’ activities in incidents reports. Williams complained he was politically targeted and singled out by name, and that the governor’s office was trying to shape the protests as being organized not by students but by his political opposition.
After the FDLE discovered a Los Angeles criminal investigation of a Scott campaign donor and Miami businessman suspected of money laundering, a man the governor wanted to groom for a political appointment, Rick Scott personally asked Bailey to help bring the investigation to a close. Bailey refused to get involved. The Governor was not pleased.
Bailey received solicitations to contribute to the governor’s campaign through the state’s email system. Bailey informed the governor’s legal counsel this was inappropriate, in fact, illegal. The governor’s office said “Then ignore it. Delete it.” Bailey pointed out to the governor’s lawyer that’s illegal too: You can’t lawfully delete official communications from state computers. The Governor was not pleased.
|Florida Gov. Scott © ABC News|
The governor ordered Bailey to a summer conference for Scott’s election campaign. Bailey refused, saying it was inappropriate for a law officer to engage in partisan politics. The Governor was not pleased.
The governor continued to treat the FDLE as his own private security force. His campaign instructed the Department of Law Enforcement to provide transportation for campaign workers. Bailey’s office refused, saying their sole responsibility was the safety of the governor and first lady, not campaign staffers. Bailey also refused a $90 000 check from Scott’s campaign, saying it wasn’t appropriate for law enforcement to accept funds from a political party. The Governor was not pleased.
Governor Fires Chief Cop For Not Breaking The Law
|Florida Gov. Rick Scott © Politico|
What hasn’t been mentioned here is that the FDLE reports not only to the governor, but also three cabinet members. Governor Jeb Bush and the three cabinet members unanimously voted Gerald Bailey into the post nineteen years ago and presumably only the cabinet can fire him. None of the cabinet apparently took part in Bailey’s termination as required by Florida law. Rick Scott merely says they didn’t object.
I’ll give the last word to former FDLE commissioner Jim York. He said the firing could create a lasting perception that politics has compromised the independence of the agency amid investigations of corruption.
“If it’s perceived that the agency is under the thumb of any politician, particularly this governor, it’s going to be devastating to the morale of the agents. They wouldn’t be interested in doing investigations where they felt that the governor was looking over their shoulder, looking out for his donor friends.”Thus we have further corruption in the Governor’s office and prisoners dying at the rate of one a day.
What is your take?