Recent articles in the press further establish that Florida's prison system is a failure. This is not unexpected, as I've noted here repeatedly that the Pinellas County Jail has many problems that have not been fixed. Why should we expect more from other prisons in the Florida Gulag? The Pinellas Jail fails to protect and provide for federal and state prisoners in the following ways:
- The Pinellas jail fails to provide prisoners with proper medical care. The sheriff allowed a contract with a private firm to continue giving medical services at the Pinellas Jail even though he was aware that the same medical service provider at the Hillsborough Jail was involved in a case where a prisoner died from lack of proper medical care. Only now, after further frustration with the provider is the sheriff finally reevaluating his decision.
- The Pinellas jail is unable to protect prisoners from violence. One young man in jail for a misdemeanor was strangled to death at the Pinellas Jail by a serial murderer at the jail not long ago. Not only are prisoners subjected to attacks from other prisoners, but they also face the occasional bludgeoning from jail guards. In a case a few weeks ago a Pinellas Deputy at the jail was fired after beating up a man in a wheel chair. Why wasn't the Deputy also subjected to charges of battery or aggravated battery. The answer is not mere firing instead a grand jury should be convened to ascertain if there is a systematic failure to protect prisoners and where there is an alleged beating charges should be filed against the officers just as they would be filed against any other citizen who commits a battery or aggravated battery.
- The Pinellas jail provides terrible food. The jail purposefully has poor food so that the jail with a private company can make money by selling edible food to the prisoners who can afford it. This introduces a destructive barter system at the jail. If the issue is money why not provide land for the prisoners to grow their own food and opportunities to learn how to cook.
- The Pinellas jail does not provide sufficient educational opportunities, books nor other library material.
- The jail does not give prisoners enough time to exercise nor to get fresh air. Often the time allotted is merely one hour a day.
- The Pinellas jail is overcrowded with more prisoners than it was meant to hold when built. The Pinellas prison population has soared even though the crime rate in Pinellas continues to fall.
As bad as my clients have told me it is, I've always found while visiting the Pinellas County Jail that those who work there are professional, competent and caring (good to write just in case I end up there). Clearly, these local jail problems are mirrored throughout the entire Florida Jail System. The remedy needs to come from the top with a decision to treat prisoners with respect and compassion making time served in prison or jail not just about punishment, but an opportunity to help educate, elevate and give treatment for prisoners especially for nonviolent crimes such as drug crimes.