News from Tallahassee for 9/18/14

Weekly Roundup: Looking for Answers posted on 7/14/14

by BRANDON LARRABEE | News Service of Florida

Everyone in Tallahassee seemed to be looking for solutions this week.

After Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis threw out two of the state's congressional districts, lawyers and politicos were left trying to find out what the ruling meant and how to repair the damage.

Meanwhile, the state's prison system was looking for a fix to a spate of bad stories about suspicious deaths of prisoners in the agency's custody. By the end of the week, the head of one prison had been suspended and the secretary of the Department of Corrections was promising to do more if necessary.

Even the question of how to grow marijuana was getting stuck in the regulatory thicket, as the Department of Health and the nascent pot industry argued over the regulations that will guide the farming of a version of the plant meant to help with some health problems.

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Complaint filed over Gov. Scott’s use of police in Tampa posted on 7/11/14

by Ap

TALLAHASSEE – A former Broward County police officer is contending that Florida Gov. Rick Scott violated the state’s election laws.

The complaint alleges that Scott broke the law when he had on-duty law enforcement officers stand with him during a campaign event held this week in Tampa.

Florida law does not allow public employees to do campaign work while on duty.

Media reports after the event quoted law-enforcement agencies who said they thought the officers were there to provide security or were there for an official state event.

The Scott campaign contends that all officers were told ahead of time it was a campaign event. A spokesman called the complaint a “sad distraction.”

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DOC Sec. Crews Suspends Warden Over Inmate Death Two Years Ago posted on 7/11/14

by Sascha Cordner | WFSU

Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Mike Crews has suspended the warden of a South Florida prison where an inmate died in a scalding shower a couple years ago. It’s the latest in a series of inmate abuse-related death allegations surrounding the department lately.

In 2012, Dade Correctional officers allegedly punished Darren Rainey, a mentally ill prisoner, with a shower so hot that it separated his skin from his body, resulting in his death. That’s why during a visit to the facility Thursday, DOC head Crews said he’s fully prepared to move forward on any disciplinary actions.

“Earlier today, as part of our overall leadership evaluation over at Dade Correctional institution, I actually placed Warden Jerry Cummings on [paid] administrative leave,” said Crews, speaking to a group of reporters.

While he says he won’t take action until an investigation into the abuse claims is complete, he’s fully prepared to fire those responsible.

“This type of conduct, this type of behavior, and this type of actions we’re not going to tolerate in this department. We are going to find those bad seeds and we’re going to eliminate them from being able to work in our department,” he added.

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3 more Florida inmate deaths prompt 3 more investigations posted on 7/10/14

by julie k. brown | miami herald

FL Dept of corrections logoNew investigations are underway by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement into the deaths of three inmates whose bodies were found in state prisons over the Fourth of July weekend, authorities confirmed Wednesday.

The deaths bring the total open, in-custody state prison death cases under scrutiny to 10 — nine of them being handled by the FDLE.

The Miami Herald also confirmed Wednesday that an FBI investigation is ongoing at Suwannee Correctional facility, the site of an October prison riot by inmates who attacked five prison guards. In April, Shawn Gooden, 33, died under mysterious circumstances at Suwannee, and his death is also under investigation by the FDLE. Inmates there have long complained of violence, abuse and corruption at the prison, located in Live Oak, just west of Lake City.

The FDLE would not release any information about the new deaths, except to say that two of them happened at Hamilton Correctional Institution and the third at Columbia Correctional.

The Hamilton inmates were identified by the Department of Corrections as Dan Myers, 42; and Craig Coburn, 35. DOC spokeswoman Jessica Cary said Coburn died of natural causes.

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Counties, state renew legal fight about juvenile detention costs posted on 7/8/14

by MARGIE MENZEL | News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — A decade into a dispute about how to divvy up the costs of detaining young offenders, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and more than two dozen counties, including Palm Beach County, are digging in for more legal fighting.

The Florida Association of Counties and 25 counties have signed on to cases filed since mid-June in the state Division of Administrative Hearings, while the department is revising its latest proposal after a rule-making hearing last month ended in impasse.

Hundreds of millions of dollars hang in the balance.

The conflict centers on the department’s handling of a 2004 law that requires the counties to pay the “pre-disposition” costs associated with juveniles waiting for their cases to be resolved in court. The state pays the cost of detaining juveniles “post-disposition” — that is, after their cases have been decided — but the two sides remain far apart on how to define those and other key terms.

“It’s a fundamental disagreement,” Florida Association of Counties spokeswoman Cragin Mosteller said Monday.

For instance, under the current department rule, which was adopted in 2010, a county must pay for detaining a youth whose case has already been resolved and then, while on probation, commits a new offense that violates terms of the probation.

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