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Suspicious Prison Deaths Shine Spotlight on Possible Criminal Acts of Prison Officers

When prison violence and resulting deaths are discussed, it is typically assumed that such acts are perpetrated against inmates by other prisoners. However, a string of suspicious prison inmate deaths in Florida prisons has shined a spotlight on some of the dangers that correctional officers can pose to the prison population that they were hired to control and protect.

The most recent case in the media is about a female inmate at the Lowell Correctional Institution in Ocala, Florida, who was found dead after sustaining multiple blunt force trauma blows to her abdomen. A few weeks before her death, the inmate had written to a family member stating that a prison officer had threatened to kill her, and that she was extremely concerned about her future safety. Other suspicious deaths in Florida prisons that have made the headlines include the 2010 death of a male prison inmate who was gassed to death while in his prison cell, as well as the 2012 death of another prison inmate who died after being forced to take a scalding hot shower that resulted in the inmate’s skin separating from his body. Furthermore, according to the Florida Department of Corrections and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the state of Florida has one of the highest prison mortality rates in the country.

Possible Reasons for Florida’s High Prisoner Mortality Rate

The female prisoner death at the Lowell Correctional Institution is the third prisoner fatality that has occurred in 2014. As a result, the Lowell prison, as well as two other Florida prisons, are currently under review by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. As these prisoner deaths become more heavily covered in the media, many are wondering what or who is to blame for the relatively higher rates of prisoner mortality in Florida. Some posit that the high rate may be because of Florida’s rapidly aging prisoner population, which is in line with the general state population. Statistics support this theory because from the years of 2001 to 2011, the number of Florida prison inmates over the age of 54 increased by 161%. Furthermore, during this same time frame, nationwide the amount of state and federal prisoners 55 years of age and older increased by 84%.

It is important to realize that almost 90% of prisoner deaths in Florida have been caused by illnesses, and not because of violence. However, the fact remains that the amount of nationwide state prisoner deaths as the result of homicide has increased from 1.4% in 2001 to 2.1% in 2011. This homicide rate includes homicides committed by other prison inmates. In Florida alone, there are 99 reviews of cases of prisoner deaths, in addition to the three homicides this year being reviewed, which are currently pending investigation. When attempting to discover the root causes of prisoner homicides, some believe that it is top-down organizational deficiencies that allow such crimes to occur. In fact, Florida’s Department of Corrections has gone through four different leadership changes in just the last five years. As a result of these constant leadership changes, Florida prisons are not being properly managed and administered, which can allow the bad behavior of both the inmates and correctional officers to go unnoticed.

If you are a prisoner in need of legal representation, contact criminal defense attorney Jeff S. Weiner, P.A. in Florida today. A skilled advocate on your side can ensure that you rights are protected in your case.

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