Category Archives: 8th Amendment – Bail and Punishment

I was quoted in the Miami Herald Exposé on the Prison Death Crisis in Florida

  • More inmates died in Florida prisons last year than any year in history.
  • The death rate spiked 20 percent.
  • Charlotte Correctional Institute has had a spate of questionable inmate deaths, most recently Brodrick Campbell.

cciYesterday, reporter Sarah Blaskey at the Miami Herald published an in-depth exposé  on the recent spike in prison deaths among inmates of Florida’s Department of Corrections (DOC). More inmates died last year while incarcerated in Florida’s prison than any year on record. The increase in deaths is particularly shocking, in that Florida’s crime and incarceration rates have been on the decline for several years. Charlotte Correctional Institute (CCI), just south of Punta Gorda, has been one of the leading facilities for inmate deaths.

There are not answers for the increased death rate, and many of the deaths are still under investigation- or the results have not been published. One possible explanation proposed by DOC that many of the deaths are caused by drug overdoses in prison. Drugs and contraband in prison have always been a problem, and addiction and overdoses have been on the rise outside of prison, as well. Unfortunately, there are few rehabilitation programs in jail, and drug addiction frequently goes untreated, though drugs are quite often a factor in the underlying crime that lead to incarceration.

ID Photo

Brodrick Campbell

One of the cases discussed was the death of Brodrick Campbell, an inmate we’ve discussed here. This young man was found dead under curious circumstances at Charlotte Correctional last year. The case is still under investigation, and the official word is that he committed suicide, which immediately struck me as odd for such a young man. A review of his case discovered that he was only sentenced to prison for three years, was a minimum security inmate, and had less than two years remaining. His family has since described a family man, who had young children who would often visit him. The explanation of suicide doesn’t make sense, and his relatives certainly don’t believe it. Based on previous history, there is a real fear that this or other deaths have come at the hands of guards.

Answers for this crisis are difficult, as it is for the problems at Juvenile Justice. DOC guards are underpaid, and for that reason retention is low. That means DOC trains them, but the good ones don’t stay, and often leave for other job: often better paying jobs in county jails, and DOC has to start all over with new hires. Accountability needs to increase as well: investigations need to lead to consequences, unlike the infamous Matthew Walker situation at CCI. It’s troubling to hear that video surveillance ends up missing, and investigations drag on for years without satisfactory explanation. Kudos to Ms. Blaskey, the Miami Herald,, and the Charlotte Sun, who has also had award-winning coverage of the issue.

Here’s our earlier coverage of the ongoing mysterious deaths at CCI.

Advertisements

The State is Trying to Force the Parents of Accused Tampa Serial Killer to Cooperate

howell donaldson trai

Howell Donaldson III

The state has charged Howell “Trai” Donaldson III with four counts of murder for a string of killings in the Seminole Heights area of Tampa in the last few weeks. The State then subpoenaed his parents, Howell Donaldson, Jr. and Rosita Donaldson, to ask them about his history, including criminal, mental health and so forth. His parents, who were concerned that the State may try to use any evidence they provided to put their son to death, refused to answer the State’s questions or to cooperate. While the concerns may be sympathetic, there is no parental privilege applicable in this circumstance.

The State moved to hold them in contempt, and a hearing was held today in court. The Judge ruled that they would have to comply with the subpoena and to testify. He has given them until January 5, 2018 to answer the prosecutors questions or risk being found in contempt of court, which could include jail time.

This is fascinating, from a legal perspective, and the first time I’ve seen something like it. They were lawfully served with a subpoena (probably an Instanter), and the judge probably correctly orders them to comply under the law. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. The serial murders he is charged with are shocking, as four seemingly unconnected, innocent people were killed. The young man accused was a college graduate who was apparently polite, even with the cops that arrested him. This case will be in the headlines for some time.

Man Gets $37,000 after Doughnut Arrest

daniel rushing

Daniel Rushing

Daniel Rushing was arrested in 2015 when an officer mistook the glaze from his Krispy Kreme doughnut for Crystal Meth. He bonded out after 10 hours, even though he should not have been locked up at all. He sued the maker of the field test kit, as well as the city, who failed to properly train their officer on how to use the field test. They settled this week for $37,500. That’ll buy Mr. Rushing a lot of doughnuts!

This kind of thing happens more often than you would think. I saw a guy get arrested for patchouli that the officer said tested positive for heroin. A man in Ovideo was recently held for 90 days until a lab test proved that his drywall was not cocaine. He may be seeking an even more substantial lawsuit, that the taxpayers are going to end up footing. And to compound his problems, he may not be able to get the arrest record expunged because he has a prior history, which prohibits expungement under current Florida law.

News of this settlement comes as the City of Fort Myers seeks to finalize a settlement for wrongly arresting football star Nate Allen: which crimcourts will be following closely.

Major Allegations of Misconduct at Naples PD

The Naples Police Department is currently fighting a Federal lawsuit for police misconduct, and the allegations that have come out in the course of the case are more and more shocking. In an affidavit filed Monday, a former Naples officer stated that he and his fellow officers were “constantly pressured” to increase numbers for arrests, stops, and citations, and that supervisors would chastise officers who did not “produce statistics”. The affidavit makes it sound as though the department had a de facto quota system that encouraged officers to be reckless.

The lawsuit claims over a million dollars in damages against former Officer Kyle Bradshaw, who has since left the department. The city was dismissed from the case, but could still end up on the hook for at least part of the damages Bradshaw could be facing. Bradshaw’s attorney contends he was just doing his job. Naples police, including Bradshaw, initially responded to Bayfront for a noise complaint, and things escalated quickly. There is video of the incident, which has been played to the jury for dramatic effect for the beating allegedly given to the suspects. The trial continues in Fort Myers this week.

In case you needed a Reminder: Prison Stinks

nutraloaf

nutraloaf

ABC ran this story about nutraloaf– an “alternative” meal served in some prisons, particularly when inmates misbehave. Doesn’t sound too appetizing! Of course, the recipe varies depending where it’s made.

Slate did an interesting piece on the legal challenges it has inspired… Can food be Unconstitutionally bad?

Hey kids try it at home!

nutraloaf-recipe

 

Jail Mistreatment Suit from Charlotte County is Underway

The civil rights trial of a jail mistreatment suit from Charlotte County got started in Federal Court in Fort Myers, today. Amy Bennett Williams is covering the case for the News-Press.

There is no Death Penalty in Florida Right Now

“…there currently exists no death penalty in the state of Florida…”

supreme court facadeSince the Supreme Court struck down the procedure Florida used to impose the death penalty in the Hurst case, there is currently no legal method to proceed on a death penalty case at this time. A Pinellas judge said as much this week, merely stating the obvious, as he rejected a prosecutor’s notice of intent to seek the death penalty. The legislature has already indicated they are going to address the death penalty procedure. The bigger question will be whether the courts apply the Hurst ruling retroactively, which would effectively preclude imposing the death sentence to the current death row inmates.

Background on Crimcourts.