A freshly minted state memo on investigating “unnatural” state prison inmate deaths may not do certain dead and dying prisoners a lot of good.
The memo between the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) enables FDLE, not DOC, to investigate unnatural inmate deaths -think homicide, suicide- from here on out.
But that doesn’t appear to include deaths by accidents, and accidents are sometimes in the eye of the beholder.
Take Marvin Morris. It’s not clear whether he had mental problems, but it certainly looked that way in April 2013, when Morris crashed his head into a metal door at least once and ran wildly about an enclosed area, eventually falling to the concrete floor.
According to statements given to state investigators, guards waited until Morris was on the floor, unresponsive and dying, before entering the area.
Much was made of the fact that Morris was smuggling a peanut butter sandwich out of the chow hall at the time. And Morris’s elderly mother said she was told by DOC that her son had choked to death on the peanut butter.
His death is categorized as an accident.
There is much about this accident that FDLE would not have looked at under the new agreement with DOC: Would Morris have lived if guards intervened earlier to subdue him? If nurses had?
In fact, DOC investigators recommended criminal charges be brought against two health care workers in connection with Morris’s death.
That didn’t happen.
But Morris’s death, officially an accident, illustrates how possible criminal behavior could escape notice by FDLE, if its investigative scope is limited to homicides and suicides.
Of course, the vast majority of inmates dying in Florida prisons are dying from natural causes, not homicides, suicides or even accidents.
Then again, deaths from natural causes can be every bit as troubling, as some have been accompanied by gross misdiagnosis and maltreatment, including giving three dying inmates Tylenol and ibuprofen for their end-stage cancers.
Humiliation is the unsung hero of American journalism: the stomach-churning thought of a public correction telling the world you blew it is enough to keep many a reporter scrupulously fact-checking.
But not all.
In a simultaneously hilarious and horrifying series of blog posts, one contributor on Popehat.com explains how his patently ridiculous fake Twitter account – identified as the official voice of North Korea- sucker-punched Slate, CNN and, most notably, Greta Van Susteren of Fox.
The merry prankster doesn’t appear to have intended for mainstream media to pick up and run with his posts, which have included such gems as Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un freezing Obama’s assets and an urgent report that Ebola had been found in Atlantis.
No, Big MSM missed those clues and instead picked up tweets entirely suitable to the news cycle, which was focused on North Korea’s antics. Entirely fake suitable tweets.
But that’s not the bad part. The bad part is what some newsies did- especially Van Susteren- when they were notified the Tweets were a sham.
Humiliating point-blank public correction? As if.
No one tells that tale better than the author, though, or explains why Gwynneth Paltrow and Kim Jong-un are sharing this screen: https://www.popehat.com/2014/12/20/the-curious-case-of-the-t-v-attorney-and-twitter/
Read it and weep.
This jury was ticked.
It’s the only explanation for the $510,000 Illinois jurors awarded Michael Beard, a prison inmate whose serious foot injury went untreated for years by Wexford Health Sources.
The jury awarded Beard $10,000 for his pain and suffering.
The half million? That was Wexford’s punishment.
“They came back with a verdict in less than two hours,” said Tom Plieura, Beard’s attorney.
Wexford is appealing.
Plieura, like most attorneys representing inmates in medical suits, was concerned jurors would not be able to get past the fact that Beard is a convict.
He needn’t have worried.
“It was a really brief summation,” said Plieura. “Just the highlights.” He also threw in a variation of a well-known saying: “You can judge the level of civilization by looking in a society’s prisons.”
Inside his Illinois prison cell, Beard had been seen by at least eight different doctors. For years, almost a1l referred him for a surgical consult.A bony growth on his Achilles tendon was growing, eventually rendering him unable to walk. His leg muscles atrophied.
Wexford repeatedly denied doctors’ requests for a referral to a specialist, documents showed.
Plieura, who is also a doctor, worked in a prison at one point. He understands that state medical care gets it wrong, too. He knows some prisoners lie.
But he points out that Illinois is paying Wexford $1.4 billion over the life of a 10-year contract, and taxpayers deserve to get their money’s worth.
“Who paid for this trial?,” Plieura said. “Taxpayers, when in fact we shouldn’t have been there if they had just paid for the surgery.”
Wexford also handles medical care for prison inmates in Florida, though its contract, and its problems here, pale in comparison to that of Corizon Inc, the Florida provider linked to terminal cancer victims treated with Tylenol and ibuprofen.
In February, after The Post wrote a series of stories about substandard inmate medical practices, the Florida Department of Corrections tossed the companies’ contracts, valued at more than a combined billion dollars. They will be rebid.
For a look at what The Post found: http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/news/privatized-prison-health-care-in-florida-deadly-pa/nhWkX/?icmp=pbp_internallink_invitationbox_apr2013_pbpstubtomypbp_launch#f4be1578.3545241.735667
Could Teddy Roosevelt, Abe Lincoln and the other three racing presidents one day sprint along the outfield at the proposed new spring training complex in West Palm Beach?
The so-called Racing Presidents are a hit at Nationals Park in Washington D.C., where the big-headed mascoted Commanders in Chief race along the warning track in an event often more exciting than the actual games.
If the Nationals and Houston Astros can build a $135 million complex south of 45th Street, it might mean local appearances by Teddy, Abe, George Washington,Thomas Jefferson and William Howard Taft.
As for the Racing Presidents, they got their own workout this morning in Washington D.C. Here is what went on before the doors opened to tourists, in photos from the U.S. National Archives twitter feed.
Not that we ever doubted you would be back in the fray.
It was just about a year ago that Richard Berman and his ticked-off kitty landed in Palm Beach.
The notorious Washington lobbyist was behind mailers featuring a cantankerous cat urging the island’s wealthy residents to think twice before donating to The Humane Society of the United States.
Going after a group dedicated to helping small furry critters is mere child’s play for Berman: Through various companies, he’s gone after Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and advocates for weight loss. He’s worked for Big Tobacco and defended mercury-laden tuna and tanning beds everywhere.
He’s accused PETA of killing animals.
Unlike many in the forefront of controversies, Berman is a cheerful warrior, reveling in his nickname.
And now, a new year, a new cause: The Doc is focusing on letting carbons run free.
The Guardian reports Berman has funneled money through a nonprofit to five front groups attacking proposed EPA rules limiting power plant carbon emissions, as well as funding 16 anti-regulation studies.
That’s classic Dr. E. Money and lobbying are typically handled by a nonprofit he creates with few direct ties to the industries or people behind it. In a taped speech smuggled to the New York Times, Berman crowed, “We run all of this stuff through non-profit organizations that are insulated from having to disclose donors. There is total anonymity.”
Another reason no one has ever accused Berman of being stupid.
As an ACLU article noted this week, the riot and destruction of Willacy County Correctional should have come as a surprise only to those wearing blinders.
In the dark.
For the last seven years.
To recap: Almost 3,000 inmates are packing up and leaving the harshly-criticized Texas prison after a riot left the place “uninhabitable.”
The inmates, most of them serving time for low-level or immigration offenses, seized control of the sprawling complex for two days beginning last Friday, citing poor medical care.
Management and Training Corp. is the private company running the prison for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. It also operates Gadsden Correctional prison for Florida’s Dept. of Corrections.
MTC hasn’t run up the same type of serious complaints here.
But it’s been under the gun at Willacy for years.
Back in 2008, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which at the time sent immigrant detainees to Willacy, found problems. ICE said the problems were fixed within a year, but in 2009, the Texas Tribune did an expose on health conditions there.
In 2011, Frontline ran a series which unearthed allegations of, among other things, sexual abuse by guards.
Last year, the ACLU released a report once again slamming Willacy. Inmates faced solitary confinement for complaining about food or bad medical care, attorneys found. The “prison” was a tent city, a series of Kevlar tents, allowing insects to crawl into beds at night. (Take it from a Texas girl. Bugs grow big there.) Sewage overflowed from broken toilets. And medical care too often consisted of Tylenol.
MTC rejected the ACLU findings.
So ACLU attorney Carl Takei, who interviewed Willacy inmates, might be allowed an “I told you so” right about now.
That’s not really where he took it, though. To read Takei’s thoughts on the uprising: https://www.aclu.org/blog/criminal-law-reform-prisoners-rights-human-rights/most-unsurprising-riot
And to read The Post’s investigation into privately operated Florida prisons:
Senator Bill Nelson’s letter to Loretta Lynch about the dead boys of Florida’s most notorious reform school was hand delivered.
Nelson, who has pushed for resources needed to identify the bodies of young boys buried at the Dozier School for Boys, wanted to make sure his request for a Dept. of Justice investigation literally got in the right hands: outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder and Lynch, the person tapped to replace him.
Nelson’s request stems from a disturbing piece of math. University of South Florida researchers trying to find and identify remains of children who died between 1915-1960 thought they were looking for 31 graves. That’s the number the Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement’s own 2009 investigation found. That inquiry found nothing amiss, or at least, nothing criminal.
But the USF team has found 51 bodies and 55 graves.
They expect to find more.
The school closed three years ago, and time has eroded clues as to how many Dozier boys died. But it is known that one 14-year-old died from a blow to the head; he was among 10 boys who died at the school after running away. A six-year-old on parole died after being brought back to the school unconscious. The next year, records of his eight-year-old brother, also at Dozier, disappeared. Several former Dozier inmates spoke of tunnels beneath the school gym and a “rape room” where boys younger than 12 were assaulted.
FDLE’s 2009 investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing at the facility.
The Dept. of Justice weighed in back in 2011, but they were looking at the school’s current treatment of kids – which they found unconstitutional- not what put children and teens into unmarked graves.
Nelson has something else in mind: a federal investigation into the deaths, in part because he believes state and local law enforcement won’t.
“In 2012, when the FDLE was asked to comment on the university’s initial findings, officials characterized them as just ‘an academic research study’,” wrote Nelson. “Local law enforcement, meantime, has expressed no interest in investigating. Thus, a federal investigation may be the best alternative.”
For a look at the USF interim report: “https://cmgpbptheinsider.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/usf-report-on-dozier-1-jan-2015.pdf