Source: Mary Ellen Klas, Tampa Bay Times, March 24, 2017
Warning that inmate health and safety is at risk at the state’s largest privately run women’s prison, Rep. David Richardson asked Gov. Rick Scott this week to use his emergency powers to replace the top officers and take state control of Gadsden Correctional Facility. … Richardson, a Miami Beach Democrat and retired forensic auditor, has been on a one-man mission to force change in Florida’s troubled prison system. After several surprise inspections in the last month with investigators from the Department of Corrections and the state’s Office of Chief Inspector General, he concluded the Gadsden prison faces “significant inmate health and safety concerns” and management has repeatedly retaliated “against inmates for discussing matters with me.” Gadsden Correctional is a medium-security prison that houses 1,544 female inmates and is one of the seven privately facilities in the state. Gadsden is the only Florida prison managed by Management Training Corp. of Centerville, Utah. McKinley Lewis, spokesman for the governor, said late Friday that Scott is reviewing the letter but had not yet taken any additional action beyond what had begun prior to Richardson’s request.
… Among the conditions Richardson observed during two surprise visits this month: 55-degree temperatures in inmate cells; no hot water; care being withheld from ill inmates; a tooth extraction without sedation, an inmate who contracted pneumonia after being housed in a unit with no heat or hot water, and reports that guards who impregnated inmates were allowed to remain on the job. … Richardson said he has heard several recurring complaints: meal quality was poor and inadequate, clothing was rationed, and white inmates said that black officers imposed harsher reprimands on them than black inmates. Healthcare is also a recurring concern, Richardson said. … Richardson has filed legislation to shift management from the Department of Management Services to the Florida Department of Corrections but it has faced push back from lobbyists for the private prison industry. The bill has not gotten a hearing.
Private prison deprived inmates of heat and hot water for months, lawmaker finds
Source: Mary Ellen Klas, Miami Herald, February 24, 2017
The 284 women housed in C-dorm at Gadsden Correctional Facility lived for months without hot water or heat, faced flooded bathrooms daily and endured water rations when the septic tanks were jammed with food waste. After state Rep. David Richardson demanded action following a series of surprise visits over the past 18 months, the private prison operator that runs the facility — Management Training Corp. of Centerville, Utah — received approval from the state to repair and replace the water heater, at a cost to taxpayers of nearly $10,000. But Warden Shelly Sonberg never authorized the work. Richardson, a Miami Beach Democrat, announced another inspection this month, this time with Chad Poppell, the head of the Department of Management Services, the state agency that oversees private prisons, and two other state legislators. In the two days before they arrived, four work crews descended on the prison and made many of the repairs. … In a letter to Richardson Thursday, Poppell said he has since removed the state-paid official in charge of monitoring conditions at the prison and has also launched his own investigation. When Richardson returned Thursday with two investigators from the Florida Department of Corrections as requested by Miguel, other problems emerged at the prison, which houses 1,530 inmates in four dorms. They learned that there are 495 open work orders for repairs. Inmates said they had been pressured not to speak to inspectors and feared retaliation.
…Richardson, a retired forensic auditor, has had success in calling attention to the problems he has uncovered at state-run prisons. He has revealed evidence of officer-on-inmate violence at youthful offender facilities, uncovered how gangs evaded officers, caught officers withholding food from inmates, and persuaded the Department of Corrections to close down Lancaster Correctional Institution, a youthful offender prison. He uncovered “horrific” conditions at Columbia Correctional, where toilets wouldn’t flush, showers didn’t work, a heating system didn’t heat and deafening sounds came from an exhaust fan. He also dug deep into the finances at Lake City Correctional Institution, another one of the state’s seven privately operated prisons and discovered Corrections Corporations of America, now known as CoreCivic of Tennessee, had overcharged the state at least $16 million over the past seven years.
… Richardson has also explored the balance sheet at the prison, which is paid $43.67 a day per inmate. … Richardson believes that the Management Training contract may not only have inflated per diem figures but inflated costs for educational programming, which are $2.3 million a year. …