Top inspector for Florida prisons under fire amid abuse reports

From: Tampa Bay Times, Feb. 8, 2015
By: Julie K. Brown and Mary Ellen Klas
Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

TALLAHASSEE — Sometime in August 2013, Department of Corrections senior investigators Aubrey Land and John Ulm sat down with their boss, Inspector General Jeffery Beasley, to talk about possible corruption in the department.

That day and in coming days, they detailed how they had found evidence that corrections officers had lied and had falsified reports, and how some of their fellow prison inspectors may have sabotaged an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement into the 2010 death of an inmate at Franklin Correctional Institution.

Beasley did not seem overly concerned, one person who was at that initial meeting recalled, and instead complained that investigators were spending too much time with FDLE agents, who often turned every case into a longevity’ project. The comment didn’t sit well with FDLE special agent Ed King, a 25-year law enforcement officer who was in the room.

“Son,” King is said to have replied, “you ain’t in Atmore, Alabama, no more. We don’t just walk by and kick a rock every now and then. We turn them over to see what’s under them around here.” Beasley had worked in law enforcement in Alabama.

Turning over rocks is the job of the DOC’s inspector general, whose mission is to “protect and promote public integrity” and root out corruption in the department. “I think he is doing a great job,” Beasley’s boss at the Department of Corrections, Julie Jones, told the Herald/Times recently.
But, according to records reviewed by the Miami Herald, Beasley and his office have a history of dismissing allegations and avoiding prosecutions when it comes to suspicious inmate deaths and allegations of abuse and official corruption.

For the past eight months, the Herald and other news organizations have reported on a string of brutal, unnatural inmate deaths, on smuggling of drugs and other contraband by staff, and on purported coverups of wrongdoing.

Like pieces of a puzzle, these allegations and others have started to fit together for some members of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, who have concluded the nation’s third-largest prison system has demonstrated it is incapable of policing itself.

Now, a long-shot idea advanced by reformers is gaining momentum. Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, has filed a bill to undertake a historic restructuring of Florida’s prison system by creating an independent oversight board — with its own investigators — to hold DOC accountable. He has the support of a majority of lawmakers on the key Senate committee, according to various interviews, and a growing number of his colleagues in the House and Senate.

“We can rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic or we can change how we’re doing business fundamentally,” said Bradley, a former prosecutor, in an interview with the Herald last week. “To me, that demands an independent oversight of this agency at this point.”

Read the rest here.

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