Murder Inside Florida Prisons - Why Is the Death Toll So High?

Florida has some of the most dangerous prisons in the United States. In 2001, there were 191 homicides and suicides inside Florida’s prison. In 2017 that number skyrocketed to 428.

Who knows what 2020 will look like after COVID-19 raced through several jails and prison in the state. While the state compiles coronavirus deaths, there are no reliable statistics on how many inmates die of medical neglect. And even Florida’s coronavirus numbers are in dispute.

Just about every major newspaper in the state has written about the dangerous and deplorable conditions in Florida’s jails yet nothing seems to change.

In 2018, an inmate at the Columbia Correctional Institution in Lake City, Florida murdered another inmate who was serving a lengthy sentence for a robbery murder. While that isn’t anything new how 58 year old inmate Larry Mark died is certainly newsworthy.

The Root reports that Mark was murdered by his cellmate who then mutilated his body, gouged out his eyes and tore off his ears. The ears were made into a necklace while the eyes left in a cup. Mark’s killer was apparently going to make soup out of the eyes later in the day.

On the same day and in the same prison, two armed gangs began slitting throats in a gang war over prison contraband. Luckily no one died in that melee.

Murders in Florida jails are nothing new. What prompted this post was the recent response to yet another murder in prison. According to a statement from the Florida Department of Corrections,

"The safe and secure operation of Florida's correctional institutions is the Department of Corrections' top priority. Every inmate death is thoroughly investigated by law enforcement and the Department's Office of Inspector General to ensure independent oversight and absolute accountability at all levels.

"The Florida Department of Corrections is committed to providing for the safety and wellbeing of all inmates in custody. Inmates who cause harm to others are held accountable for their actions.”

That statement, or one just like it, is issued after every inmate death. Like the little boy who kept crying wolf, today few believe Florida DOC when they claim they are committed to the “safety and wellbeing of all inmates.”

Society seems to forget people in prison. That is one of the many reasons why prisons are allowed to remain so violent. Almost no one cares. That doesn’t mean prisoners are without rights, however. Even in Florida, inmates have the right to adequate medical care and to be free of cruel punishment.

Why Are Florida Prisons So Violent?

There are many reasons for the violence in Florida’s jails, lock ups and prisons.

First is overcrowding. As quickly as the state builds a new prison, it is full. Right now, Florida has 143 state prisons and camps and over 40 county jails.

Not only prisons here overcrowded, many don’t have air conditioning. That makes them unbearably hot in the summer. Nothing to do, no room, no privacy and heat and humidity is a lethal combination. Literally.

Yet another problem is drugs. And in most Florida prisons you can find any kind of drug you want. Some of the most common drugs in jail are synthetic ones like “twak,” bad stuff that can kill you (or cause you to kill someone else).

Another problem is staff. Florida doesn’t pay guards very well. Worse, most guards have to work 12 hour shifts in the same heat and humidity. Depending on the facility, it is not uncommon for correction officers to work for 28 days with just 2 days off.

Those working conditions mean high turnover. Once again, depending on the facility the annual turnover is between 30% and 50%.

Frequent turnover and unfilled positions mean teaching and vocational programs are often unstaffed. Idle prisoners often become violent prisoners.

It’s not just danger from inmates, however. As we previously noted, healthcare is quite poor. Reports of medication errors, untreated broken bones, and poor cancer screening abound. While some states like California pay an average of over $20,000 per inmate for annual healthcare, Florida ranks in the bottom third of spending.

Add in the state’s new found love of for-profit private prisons and inmates who are ill or become ill are in great danger.

Recently a Florida inmate recorded a video of conditions inside the Martin Correctional Institution. If you want to see first hand what Florida’s prisons are really like, we have the video at the end of this post. Be warned, however, that you may not want to watch it on a full stomach.

The inmate used a smuggled camera inside a hollowed out Bible to record his daily life. The video was then smuggled out and given to the Miami Herald. If you make it through the entire 3 minute video you will wonder how Florida can say that it is committed to the safety and wellbeing of inmates. You won’t find a single inmate, corrections officer or criminal defense lawyer that believes that. Those statements are simply made for the benefit of the public.

If you or a loved one suffered serious bodily harm while incarcerated or were denied adequate medical care resulting in death or injury, you may have a valid personal injury claim.   Finding a lawyer to take a jail injury or death case can be extremely difficult. Unfortunately, depending on where you are in the state, some jurors lack empathy and sympathy. Guards enjoy qualified immunity for many of their actions, Suing a jail isn’t impossible, however.

If a loved one died because of medical neglect or assault by a guard or if you were denied medical care resulting in a permanent disabling condition, we can help.

We invite you to review our Florida jail injury and neglect information page. Ready to see if you have a case? Contact online, by email [hidden email] or by phone 866-836-4684. Unlike some websites that are merely lead generation companies, we are a real law firm with a full time presence in Florida.

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