- 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.
Yesterday, 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.
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.
Posted in 8th Amendment - Bail and Punishment, Criminal Law, Florida
Tagged brodrick campbell, cci, charlotte, doc, matthew walker, miami, miami herald, prison, punta gorda, sarah blaskey
This week the Miami Herald dropped a bombshell on Florida’s juvenile justice system and the Department of Juvenile Justice. They spent two years researching the last 10 years of juvenile justice history to prepare a report they call “Fight Club.” It’s a devastating read.
The Herald found multiple instances of violence against juveniles. Some from the guards, and others from inmates, sometimes at the behest of guards who would reward them with Honey Buns or other items from the commissary. The article points to low pay, inadequate personnel screening and standards, and tolerance for cover-ups. Indeed, Time and again the Herald found that guards involved in the violence, including juvenile death, were not criminally charged (much like the adult guards in the CCI homicide a couple years back.)
One of the facilities highlighted was here in SW Florida, at the Fort Myers Youth Academy. The Herald says the Youth Academy is a microcosm, “steeped in violence and a culture of coercive cover-ups.” It details guards that were hired, even though they’d been fired from previous prison guard jobs for sexual harassment and bribery to hide abuse. It sounds like the troublemakers cited in the report no longer work there, but the account is troubling.
DJJ filed a lengthy response. Unfortunately, the lives lost by years of abuse cannot be brought back, but hopefully a true culture change can prevent such abuses in the future.
Yet another inmate has died at Charlotte Correctional Institute. The News-Press reports this is the fifth inmate death this year, several of which are still apparently under investigation. That’s on top of three more last year, and several more in recent years. One of the earlier deaths was ruled a homicide at the hands of the guards, but no charges were brought. This raises yet more questions, still with few answers.
Reports indicate the latest death was a local man, Broderick Campbell, from Fort Myers. He was serving only a 3-year sentence for Burglary and Theft from a conviction last year in Lee County, and DOC records indicate he was a minimum security inmate. His sentencing Scoresheet did not indicate any criminal history other than this charge. He initially was placed on probation, but got violated and ultimately sent to prison where he had less than two years remaining until his release.
For more on the troublesome history, here’s the link to our CCI-tagged posts.
A spate of troublesome deaths has continued this year at Charlotte Correctional Institute. Most recently, it was just revealed that inmate Antonio Kirkland was reported dead on July 10, 2017. The report was released Thursday, with no details on how he died. News-Press reporter Melissa Montoya was able to extract a telling quote from FDLE spokesperson Jessica Cary, who pointedly stated, “We don’t normally investigate deaths of natural causes.” Kirkland was serving life in prison for armed robbery, in addition to attempted murder and other charges in Pinellas.
Kirkland’s death is the second to be investigated this year at CCI. In May, a 37-year-old inmate named Cesar Ruano, a.k.a. “El Diablo”, was found dead, and no information was released to date. Ruano was serving life in prison for a first-degree murder out of Miami-Dade. The News-Press article indicates there was an investigation for this death, and as Ms. Cary pointed out, they don’t usually investigate deaths of natural causes. While FDLE and DOC have not released any information, a person claiming to be Ruano’s brother commented on a Facebook post, claiming that he died in solitary confinement, crying for help.
There was another inmate death earlier this year, making Kirkland’s at least the third at CCI this year. 48-year-old Michael Diffenderfer passed away suddenly in April at CCI. He had been serving consecutive life sentences for murder and armed robbery from Palm Beach. The cause of death in his case has been reported to be natural: pulmonary embolism as a result of deep vein thrombosis. That’s according to Diffenderfer’s ex-wife… FDLE did not publicly release any information regarding that death either. We don’t have any suggestion that his death was suspicious, but no official word from FDLE, either.
The News-Press says that FDLE is still investigating three deaths from last year (2016), and another from 2015. Including the two from the last couple months, that’s six troublesome cases that are apparently still under investigation. That doesn’t include the 2014 death of Matthew Walker, who’s death was determined to be a homicide at the hands of correctional officers, but for which the State failed to secure an indictment, due in part to a botched investigation and/or cover-up. That means more than 10 criminal probes in the last few years. Coverage of that case, and others, garnered at Pulitzer Prize for the Charlotte Sun. But even their award-winning writing has not led to answers for the ongoing spate of inmate deaths. Nor has it brought an end to the growing body-count piling up at Charlotte Correctional Institute.
More coverage of Charlotte Correctional Institute is worth reading
Posted in Florida, punta gorda / port charlotte / charlotte / southwest florida
Tagged antonio kirkland, badcops, cci, cesar ruano, charlotte, doc, el diablo, fdle, matthew walker, Michael Diffenderfer, murder, prison, reginald davis, robert peterkin
Congratulations are in order to the Charlotte Sun, specifically writers John Hackworth and Brian Gleason, for winning the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished editorial writing. They won for a series of editorial pieces regarding the beating and death of prison inmate Matthew Walker at the hands of prison guards. We discussed the incident, which was deemed by the ME to be a homicide, and the failure of the SAO to return an indictment against any of the responsible parties, here on Crimcourts a few months ago. The pattern of inmate death at CCI is troubling, and kudos are well deserved for the Charlotte Sun for fighting to bring them to light.
The headlines from the editorial articles are sobering: including, “Lies, cover-up block charges in prison death“, “Another day, another dead inmate at CCI” and finally, “Walker’s killers mostly still work at local prison“. It’s sobering to read through them, especially to realize how little has changed, in spite of these writers’ best efforts. Especially troubling is how the SAO failed to get an indictment that would have had a chance of bringing some justice, memorialized by this headline, “Prosecutors torpedo the grand jury“. Sobering stuff.
Pulitzer.org has links to all of the editorials from the winning series, it’s definitely worth a click-through to check out…
Posted in Criminal Law, Florida, Police, punta gorda / port charlotte / charlotte / southwest florida
Tagged badcops, cci, charlotte, charlotte sun, matthew walker, murder, prison, pulitzer
While it hasn’t made a lot of local news, there has been a rash of inmate deaths, many from non-natural causes. This past week, Reginald Davis passed away, authorities indicate he killed himself. This might not be noteworthy, except for the string of deaths at Charlotte Correctional Institute, just south of Punta Gorda. As of August, 2015, there were five inmate death investigations ongoing. That represents at least the seventh criminal investigation at CCI in recent years. One that did end in prosecution was the brutal beating and eye-gouging of an inmate that resulted in a federal conviction for a guard, William Wilson, a few years ago. Sadly, that incident made national news, not for the crime, but because the whistle-blower guard who reported it was framed and then fired after he testified for the government after the attack. He sued, and reached a settlement for $135,000.
There is also reason to be skeptical of the report that the inmate committed suicide. Just last year, authorities allege that Robert Peterkin hung himself in another suicide. However, his family thinks something more sinister occurred. Peterkin had just reported that contraband was possibly being smuggled into the facility. He was confined shortly after making the report, and was found dead 13 minutes later. However, he had made statements to his family prior to his death that lead them to be skeptical that he killed himself; statements that are ominous, in hindsight. “He said nothing will be like it appears to be,” his sister told the Bradenton Herald, and that he suggested they look closely at the prison.
The one death case that did indicate a murder by the guards was failed to be successfully prosecuted. Inmate Matthew Walker was brutally beaten to death by prison guards, and the medical examiner determined his death to have been a homicide at the hands of guards. Walker’s larynx was crushed and he sustained blows to his head, neck and torso. However, the grand jury did not indict, in part due to poor handling of the crime scene, and much of the evidence being mishandled or destroyed. The handling of the evidence suggested a cover up by prison employees.
Shockingly, one of the grand jurors was so baffled by the failure of prosecutors to make a stronger push for charges, she broke her oath of secrecy to come forward to express her disappointment in the failure to hold anyone accountable. “We all knew they were guilty and should have been prosecuted, but we were talked out of indicting them. This man was beaten to death,” Louise Salcedo said to reporters. She makes it sound as though prosecutors discouraged indictment due to the challenge of prosecuting the case, and that the grand jury wasn’t allowed to question several officers that were pulled from the witness list. Salcedo said that she, and other jurors, wanted to indict but were ultimately outvoted. Meanwhile, there is no justice for Walker’s homicide, even though investigators determined that five of the workers involved could have faced criminal charges. Instead, most of them were given their jobs back.
The latest death is one in a series of deaths under questionable circumstances in just a few years at Charlotte Correctional Institution. The loved ones of the deceased are still looking for answers.
The Miami Herald has done an extensive report on prison abuses.
Posted in Criminal Law, Florida, punta gorda / port charlotte / charlotte / southwest florida
Tagged cci, doc, john pisciotta, kelly bradley, louise salcedo, matthew walker, murder, port charlotte, prison, reginald davis, robert peterkin, william wilson