October 1, 2015
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – On Wednesday, September 30, the Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas published “Julie Jones conducts interviews for top prison jobs, includes incumbents”, an article that wrongfully attacked Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) leadership in an effort to distort the hiring and selection process of the Department’s Regional Directors. We take this opportunity to set the record straight:
REPORTED: “Among them are current regional chiefs Sam Culpepper, Eric Lane and Randy Tifft, as well as assistant regional directors Rodney Tomlinson and Larry Mayo. All of those officials have been at the helm during one of the most brutal periods in Department of Corrections history as the number of inmates who died of unnatural causes reached record numbers, use of force was at a five-year high, and the agency was forced to fire and discipline officers involved with inmate abuse.”
FACT: Each of the FDC regional leadership teams supervises more the 5,000 correctional officers in more than 15 correctional institutions. These members work tirelessly to engage our staff, statewide, often responding to incidents which occur hundreds of miles away from their homes and offices at every hour of the day and night.
Since taking their positions, the Department’s regional leadership has addressed both past and current incidents, adjusting both informal and formal policy to ensure the safety of those in our facilities and the accountability of our agency and staff.
As reported in the Office of Inspector General (OIG) 2014-15 Annual Report, the Department observed a decline of more than 1,000 use of force incidents from FY 2013-14 to FY 2014-15, achieving a five-year low in use of force for the agency. Regional leadership works closely with the OIG to assist in both criminal and administrative investigations, as requested by inspectors.
While the overwhelming majority of our members are good, honest and hardworking people, we are not naive to the fact that a very small number of the more than 16,000 correctional officers employed by our agency do not always carry the agency’s values and mission. Since May of 2015, the OIG, with the full support of our regional leadership, have arrested more than 12 officers. Additionally, during that same period of time, regional leadership has worked closely with our Office of Human Resources (OHR) to facilitate the dismissal of more than 300 correctional officers for cause.
The Department’s leadership has zero-tolerance for misconduct by any member and will continue to work with our OIG and OHR to aggressively identify and take the appropriate action against those who engage in activity that violates state law or Department policy.
No death which occurs in our facilities is taken lightly. In the past three years, the Department has observed an increase in the mortality rate of our inmate population, however, contrary to the Herald’s reporting, the vast majority of these deaths are a result of natural causes.
Of the 346 deaths which occurred in our facilities in 2014, 102 are currently under investigation pursuant to the Department’s memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). Of the 244 deaths for which a cause and manner of death has been determined by the medical examiner, 222 were found to be as a result of natural causes and 22 are considered “unnatural” and are a result of an accident (6), homicide (6) or suicide (9).
It’s important to note that many inmates suffer from pre-existing conditions such as alcohol and drug addiction, mental illness and chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension and have not had regular access to any form of health care prior to being incarcerated.
REPORTED:Along with the Herald’s gross mischaracterization of the Department’s regional leadership, they also incorrectly associated certain incidents with an FDC regional leadership member and provided both inaccurate and one-sided summaries of the incidents. Six of the incidents included in the article did not occur under the leadership of the named regional director.
Click Here for a PDF detailing the incidents in each region. The incidents in red font did not occur during the tenure of the current regional leadership. Also included is additional information that was conveniently left out of the Herald’s article.
As Florida's largest state agency, the Department of Corrections employs more than 23,000 members statewide, incarcerates more than 100,000 inmates and supervises nearly 140,000 offenders in the community.