News from Tallahassee for 11/26/14

Report: Scott's Inspector Told of Cover-up posted on 9/29/14

by AP

A widening scandal focusing on the treatment of Florida prison inmates includes new allegations that Gov. Rick Scott's own top watchdog was warned about the possible cover-up of two suspicious prison deaths but did not do anything.

The Miami Herald reported Friday that the governor's chief inspector general received an anonymous letter in Oct. 2012 that included details about prisoners who had died while in state custody.

But instead of opening an inquiry, Melinda Miguel turned it over to the inspector general at the Department of Corrections, which conducted a cursory review.

Miguel works directly for Scott, but so far the governor has not said anything about the scandal, which has led to the firings of prison employees. The questions surrounding the prison system's handling of the cases has resulted in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement being placed in charge of investigating 82 cases in which prison inmates died from non-natural causes.

The anonymous letter was addressed to Scott and stamped as being received by Miguel. It included details about the deaths of Randall Jordan-Aparo at Franklin Correctional Institution in 2010 and Darren Rainey at Dade Correctional in 2012. Rainey, a mentally ill prisoner, was punished in 2012 with a shower so hot that his skin separated from his body. Jordan-Aparo was reportedly gassed while in a confinement cell.

The letter states that "cronyism and cover-ups are destroying the department."

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DJJ challenged over ending contract posted on 9/26/14

by News Service of Florida

A company that operates residential facilities for juvenile offenders has challenged a decision by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice to terminate a contract in Santa Rosa County and to prevent the firm from bidding on other contracts.

The challenge, filed by Youth Services International Inc., was sent this week to the state Division of Administrative Hearings. Youth Services has had contracts to operate nine juvenile facilities in Florida, including the Santa Rosa Substance Abuse Treatment Center in Milton.

But in an Aug. 20 letter, the Department of Juvenile Justice terminated the Santa Rosa contract and prevented Youth Services from seeking other contracts for 12 months, saying the firm had not taken adequate steps at the Santa Rosa facility to "provide a safe and secure therapeutic environment for our youth."

A legal challenge filed by Youth Services disputes the department's position.

In part, the company pointed to department decisions to transfer juveniles to the Santa Rosa facility from another facility in Madison County that was closed after "significant disruptions."

It said several of the youths transferred from the Madison facility caused problems and were involved in an Aug. 16 incident that involved destroying property and altercations between residents.

"YSI (Youth Services International) appropriately handled the events by intervening between the participants and calling law enforcement,'' the company said in the legal challenge. "After reviewing the video tapes, law enforcement arrested eight of the individual youth involved."

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Told of prison cover-up, Gov. Scott’s inspector failed to act posted on 9/26/14

by MARY ELLEN KLAS AND JULIE K. BROWNHERALD/TIMES TALLAHASSEE BUREAU

FL Dept of corrections sealGov. Rick Scott’s chief troubleshooter was warned by letter nearly two years ago about the possible cover-up of two suspicious prison deaths, but did nothing other than forward the letter to the very people accused of hiding the deaths, documents obtained by the Miami Herald show.

An anonymous letter addressed to “Gov. Scott” and stamped as received by the governor’s chief inspector general on Oct. 25, 2012, included strikingly accurate details about the gruesome deaths of Randall Jordan-Aparo at Franklin Correctional Institution in 2010 and Darren Rainey at Dade Correctional in 2012.

At the time the governor’s office received the letter, the investigations of both deaths had been closed by the Department of Corrections — Jordan-Aparo’s as a natural death and Rainey’s pending a finding by the Miami-Dade medical examiner.

Rather than open an inquiry into the letter-writer’s claims, Melinda Miguel, the governor’s chief inspector general, turned the letter over to the DOC’s inspector general’s office, which conducted a cursory review. A summary of the DOC report notes some “staff violations’’ in connection with Jordan-Aparo’s death, and states that Miami-Dade police were handling Rainey’s case.

The report concluded that “this inquiry [will] be closed with no further action taken.”

The letter is another sign that the governor’s chief investigator, her assistant, Dawn Case, and DOC Inspector General Jeffery Beasley knew there was possible wrongdoing in connection with the deaths, yet did nothing.

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State union weighs in on budget posted on 9/25/14

by Bill Thompson | Ocala Star Banner

The head of one the largest police unions in Florida is urging the County Commission to budge in the budget demands it is making of Sheriff Chris Blair.

Jim Preston, president of the Florida Fraternal Order of Police in Tallahassee, said employee turnover and morale and, more importantly, public safety are being adversely affected by the board's insistence on holding tax rates flat for 2015.

"We kind of feel like the deputies are being used as pawns in what's going on with the budget," Preston said in an interview Wednesday. "The deputies at the Sheriff's Office are top-notch people doing a good job, but, man, are they frustrated.

"I feel that's going to affect public safety in Marion County."

Preston was referring to the fact that patrol deputies may go another year without raises after the County Commission directed Blair to keep the property tax rate within the special tax district that funds the patrol and investigative arms of the Sheriff's Office at the 2014 level.

Blair, his staff and now Preston assert that fact, combined with Marion having one of the lower starting salaries among sheriff's offices in Florida, has deputies filing for the exits.

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Sheriff, pot activist disagree during marijuana forum posted on 9/23/14

by Rick Neale | FLORIDA TODAY

TITUSVILLE – Jodi James argues that cannabis is a “time-honored, tested and true” medicinal drug, and Amendment 2 would provide Florida residents health-treatment options that would land them in jail today.

“It allows the 80 percent of you in the room who would never consider breaking the law an opportunity to work with your personal care physician,” said James, executive director of the Eau Gallie-based Florida Cannabis Action Network.

“And, have access to something that very well may be more effective — and less toxic — than your medicines,” James said.

However, Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey disagrees with the text of Amendment 2. He said legal loopholes would let 13-year-olds enter “doctor shops” and receive “recommendations” to receive marijuana, rather than formal prescriptions.

“They’re not going to take it down here to the end of Garden Street to CVS and have it filled. They’re going to go to the medicinal marijuana dispensary next door that’s going to be in a strip mall,” Ivey said.

“And they’re going to pull out these Tupperware containers filled with large buds,” he said.

Monday night, Ivey and James argued opposing viewpoints during an Amendment 2 forum at Dixie Crossroads Seafood Restaurant. If approved by voters, the amendment would change the Florida Constitution to legalize medical marijuana in the Sunshine State.

About 50 people attended Monday’s forum, which was hosted by the North Brevard Democratic Club.

» Read more

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