Florida Settles Lawsuit With Prison Guard Whistle Blowers
This is a report on what happened to three Florida Department of Corrections staff members after they testified under oath before a Florida State Senate committee about murdering, brutal, dishonest guards in Florida’s prisons.
Florida is the nation’s third largest prison system. The Miami Herald began an investigative project into reports of alleged brutality and corruption in the prison system. Only then did prison officials begin to acknowledge the complaints. In September 2014, I reported on the firing of 32 guards from the Florida Department of Corrections.
One of the correction officers that was terminated is Rollin Austin. Records show that Austin ordered the gassing of Randall Jordan-Aparo, a 27-year-old check forger who died at Franklin Correctional in September 2010.
Randall Jordan-Aparo begged to be taken to the hospital for a blood disorder that had flared up. Instead, Austin ordered the gassing in close quarters cell. Three years after Randall Jordan-Aparo’s death, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement visited the Franklin prison to look into an unrelated wrongdoing and stumbled onto the circumstances behind Jordan-Aparo’s death. Florida Department of Law Enforcement inspectors now call what happened a case of “sadistic retaliatory” behavior by guards.
The cover-ups, corruption and other wrong-doing did not end in 2014. On November 29, 2016, Tampa Bay news reported that Florida agreed to settle a case for $800,000. That case was filed by whistle blowers who alleged retaliation.
On July 7, 2014, a first amended complaint was filed seeking injunctive relief. After more than 2 years, it was finally settled. The settlement is filed in the Leon County Circuit Court. It exonerates investigators Doug Glisson, Aubrey Land and John Ulm of the Florida Department of Correction’s inspector general’s office. The three came forth with evidence that they believed Randall Jordan-Aparo had been gassed to death by prison guards. Florida Governor Rick Scott’s inspector general, Melinda Miguel, refused to give them whistle-blower protection.
The three investigators brought their concerns forth by testifying under oath before a Florida State Senate committee. They alleged that after doing so, Jeffery Beasley, then inspector general, systematically tried to discredit them by making charges against them, ordering numerous internal investigations, forging signatures, and threatening their law enforcement status.
The settlement agreement agrees to pay Glisson, Land and Ulm $133,333 each, and drops all pending internal investigations. Glisson and Ulm will also receive more than $4,100 in wages lost from recent demotions. The settlement requires them to give up their jobs with the Department of Corrections.
Glisson worked with the agency for more than 20 years. Land has worked 33 years in law enforcement.
“They didn’t offer up this settlement because they liked us,” said Glisson. “They really didn’t want this to go to a jury trial.”
Three others also filed retaliation claims. They are James Padgett, David Clark and Christina Bullins. The settlement agreement awards them $50,000 each, and pays their attorney fees of $250,000.
There were also claims of cronyism in closing an investigation that alleged that prisoners were served tainted food. Tampa Bay News carries the entire story.
Audit Report Shows There Are Still Problems
In November 2015, a 178 page audit report was released titled “Study of Operations of the Florida Department of Corrections. The audit found that one in ten prison guards had not completed the required basic pre-service training. As a result, inexperienced prison employees are put into positions with limited to no supervision.
The audit further cited “a significant number of staff” on non-inmate contact status because they were under investigation. At the time of the report, 95 FDOC employees were on non-contact status or administrative leave.
The audit made a number of other findings and recommendations related to security operations, management, classification, visitation, security threat groups and the introduction of contraband into state prisons. The report cited data from 2013-14 where it found that 1,783 cell phones, 477 knives or other sharp weapons, and over 2 kilos of marijuana were found in Florida state prisons.
You can access the 178 page report here.
State Senator Greg Evers, who is Chair of the Florida Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee, expressed concern about the issues highlighted in the report.
“We are on the verge of seeing a dangerous situation get out of hand. Inmates as well as corrections officers are being put in a situation where their life could be in jeopardy because of our zealousness in putting untrained people in positions overseeing inmates.”
The Miami Herald’s coverage of the report is at this link.
Senator Evers has also introduced a Bill making it a third degree felony for correction officers to intentionally harm inmates.
Posted on 01/03/2017, in Cases and tagged Audit report, Department of Corrections, Florida, report of operations of the Florida Department of Corrections, Senator Evers, settlement. whistle-blowers, Stop Prison Abuse. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.