FLORIDA WATCH

Bulletin-- February 3, 2000 Florida Prison Guards Indicted!
UPDATE: GUARD TELLS ALL IN PRISON DEATH!

 

FLORIDA WATCH is a group concerned with the abuse, brutality, human rights violations and murder of inmates in Florida prisons. Since several of this group are affiliated with MACC, it was decided that MACC would feature them and their watch of Florida.

A group of citizens trying to keep a watchful eye on guards is not exclusive to Florida to be sure. But it serves as an example of what happens in many other states. Just as MACC features high profile cases like Robert Downey Jr, profiling Florida serves the same purpose.

The atrocities in Florida prisons being perpetrated in the name of "Corrections" are as outrageous as they are varied. Guards are allowed to exploit their positions with impunity. Starvation, beatings by gangs of guards euphemistically called "extraction teams", rape set up by guards, sensory deprivation, subjection to extreme temperatures whether from heat and nonventilation or cold and little or no clothes. And finally murder by jack booted thugs with a badge.

Male and female inmates are driven to suicide by systematic abuse. An inmate is beaten and left to bleed to death strapped nude to a cot. Guards aren't held responsible. An inmate is strapped in a restraining chalr and put in a chokehold until he is dead. Guards say they were trying to "help" him because he had a nosebleed. Inmates are routinely beaten on X-Wing of Starke Prison with resulting broken noses, ribs and jaws. One inmate is beaten by an "extraction team" until every rib is broken. When he dies the guards say he threw himself against the walls of his cell and caused his own injuries. Even though the autopsy performed by an outside medical examiner brought in by the lawyer of the victims relatives found bootmarks all over his upper body.

The audacity of these guards isn't surprising since they are supported by the Department of Corrections 100%. Guards know they have the support of their superiors and this is why they're so out of control. There is no control.

In the case of Frank Valdes who was allegedly jackbooted to death July 17th, 1999, 10 of the 11 guards implicated in his death made an appearance in a closed courtroom November 4, 1999. So far only one guard has been charged. Sgt. Montrez Lucas has been charged with aggravated battery, battery on an inmate and coercing to alter official reports.

The main witness, another inmate in X-wing, has been transferred to another prison in another state! For his own protection! Eight other inmates in that wing have been transferred to Butler. What does this tell us about the inbred corruption in Florida prisons? Throughout this investigation prompted by the Florida ACLU and a relative and fiance of the murder victim, attorneys have been provided by the Police Benevolent Association. This is the same Association that is a huge contributor to political campaigns coast to coast. It's a union that doesn't call itself a union. A union that gives unions a decidedly bad name. A union that whispers in legislators ears to get draconian laws passed 1ike three strikes and mandatory minimums. And still more whispering to get more and more prisons built to be filled to the brim with Americans. Americans who are warehoused for nonviolent crimes. So many that there is no room for vioent offenders who are unleashed on the streets.

The Police Benevolent Association has lobbied big time for guard job security. They've supported brutal guards in their ranks and continue to do so coast to coast. Cruel and inhuman punishment is the norm in Florida prisons. We as civilized Americans, must speak out and demand accountability!

Who is guarding the guards?

In all fairness, it must be stated here that when a person with a violent nature is incarcerated it is expected that force will eventually be used to subdue outbursts, but only up to a point. Guards are trained for this. The continued use of force after an inmate is subdued is criminal and must be eliminated. If correctional officers don't have the mental capacity or emotional control necessary for that job, they must not be allowed to be guards in high- risk populations. Qualification for such a job calls for the weeding-out of sociopaths. Since harrassment and violence against inmates is so common in our prisons these days, we must assume that there are too many unqualified and/or emotionally unstable guards. Perhaps the powers that be deem this necessary in a country where the prison population is growing out of control. Prison guards are supported and they know they are supported. Think about this ... 1 out of every 150 US citizens resides in prison! You could be Frank Valdes! Or your son or daughter! The drug war is out of control!

 

 

September 15, 1999

Abuse in prisons called 'routine'

A former prison psychologist tells the Senate Criminal Justice Committee that violence and corruption are rampant in state institutions.

By ADAM C. SMITH St. Petersburg Times

For three years, prison psychologist Connie Schenk said she repeatedly tried to alert administrators to suspected inmate abuse by corrections officers at two North Florida prisons. And for three years she said prison administrators responded with defensiveness, hostility and retaliation. A frustrated Schenk quit her job Aug. 31, and now she's hoping state lawmakers will pay attention to what she calls chronic problems in Florida's prison system.

"I can tell you firsthand that corruption is rampant, abuse of inmates and staff is routine, and coverup is an established practice," Schenk wrote Sept. 13 in a letter to the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. After the violent death of Florida State Prison inmate Frank Valdes on July 17 prompted state and federal criminal investigations, Schenk said she spent about two hours laying out her allegations of abuse to an FBI agent in Tallahassee.

Since Valdes' death, the agency has been flooded with allegations of abuse. Before quitting, Schenk, 53, who has a doctorate in forensic psychology, had worked at Taylor Correctional Institution in Perry, at Liberty Correctional Institution in Bristol and, since late July, at the Corrections Mental Health Institution in Chattahoochee. She said she frequently saw injured inmates at Taylor and at Liberty who said they had been beaten by authorities. She said prison administrators had little interest in providing mental health services to inmates and, in some cases, ordered her not to provide mental health treatments she felt were necessary.

As a new staffer at Taylor in 1996, Schenk said she routinely filed reports on suspected abuse, but her supervisors and other officers either did nothing about them or became hostile toward her for reporting the incidents. "I went to the warden, Greg Drake, and told him abuse was going on. He just said, "I don't think so, Dr. Schenk,' " she said.

"Absolutely nothing would happen. Everybody read (my reports), signed off on them, and then nothing happened." Drake, who now oversees the prisons throughout the Panhandle area, did not return a reporter's phone call Tuesday. Told of Schenk's allegations before noon Tuesday, the department's public information office also did not return phone calls. At Liberty, Schenk said she tried being more "diplomatic" and brought her concerns to supervisors more informally. But, again, she said she only provoked antagonism.

Then last spring, another officer told her he was being threatened by guards whom he had seen beating an inmate. Not trusting the system's internal investigators, she said she and the other officer went to the state inspector general, who eventually sent Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers to investigate.

The case is still open, the state inspector general's office said Tuesday. Schenk said she had been told that FDLE referred the case back to the Department of Corrections. In July, she said her boss ordered her to immediately clear out her desk because she was being transferred to the mental health prison in Chattahoochee. She viewed it as retaliation for her allegations.

Soon after she started at Chattahoochee, the department announced the prison would be converted into a sexual offender facility. Unemployed since Sept. 2, Schenk said she is somewhat relieved to be out of the stressful and threatening atmosphere. "No employee should have to work every day wondering if they're going to be set up or if they're going to be hurt," she said in an interview. "I tried so hard to work within the system to make change. I reported to my supervisors, and I went up the ladder. The only reason I'm coming forward now, talking to you, is because that really is the last step."

 

LEFT: GOVERNOR JEB BUSH

Amadeo "Trinchi" Trinchitella, a city commissioner in Deerfield Beach, near Fort Lauderdale, said Bush "tried to show us that he was not a demon as he was portrayed in the race five years ago," At one candidates' forum during the campaign, an African American woman stood up to ask Bush what he planned on doing for black people in Florida. Bush's answer: "Probably nothing."

And what do you suppose he'll do about the blatant and wide-spread inmate abuse in Florida prisons? Probably .....

 

To access e-mail addresses of U.S. legislators and voice your concern, click here:

 

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