"Friday night massacre"
September 21, 2014 9:03 AM   Subscribe

On Friday, 32 guards who were employees of the Florida Department of Corrections were fired; all were accused of being associated with the deaths of inmates at four state prisons.

"The union representing the state’s corrections officers, however, says Crews’ firing of low-level staff is a diversion to turn attention away from the real culprits responsible for fostering the prison system’s culture of brutality: the department’s wardens, regional directors and top leadership."

In June, the ACLU of Florida, Florida Justice Institute, Amnesty International, the Florida Council of Churches, and the Florida Conference of NAACP Branches wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder regarding the 2012 death of Darren Rainey, a mentally ill prisoner who was left unattended in a closet sized shower stall for two hours while "being blasted with scalding hot water with temperatures that were later measured as high as 180 degrees, Mr. Rainey was found dead – his skin separated from his body." “I can’t take it no more, I’m sorry. I won’t do it again,’’ he screamed over and over, according to a grievance complaint from a fellow inmate.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article1964620.html#storylink=cp

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is currently looking at 82 prisoner deaths where inmates died of something other than a natural cause.

11 guards were fired and arrested last week for alleged brutality against prisoners.

On August 20, Florida Depart of Corrections Secretary Mike crews "announced a series of system-wide reforms designed to improve transparency and provide better training in the handling of mentally ill inmates."
posted by roomthreeseventeen (32 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
Calling a mass firing a "massacre" is beyond tasteless when the issue provoking the firings is wrongful death.
posted by idiopath at 9:12 AM on September 21, 2014 [116 favorites]


And of course we will see all of the responsible parties get to make their choice* between a hot needle and a ride in Old Sparky.

Haha, just kidding. Check this out.
He collapsed and died, falling face-up on the shower drain. When guards found him, chunks of skin were slipping off his body, witnesses told the inspector general’s office. No one was held accountable.
Responsibility vanishing through the miracle of the passive voice. As usual, without mountains of evidence and bathypelagic levels of pressure applied, it will be business as usual: just a cumulative series of reductions on charges and penalties until most of them can go to another state, perhaps Texas, and do the usual routine. One good scapegoat so the public can clap and feel like justice has somehow been served.

Newsflash: Justice has been sitting at the counter, waving frantically, and sucking on the complimentary peppermint left behind by someone else when the hunger pangs become too intense.

* Florida lets you pick.
posted by adipocere at 9:15 AM on September 21, 2014 [13 favorites]


At least nobody locked them in a shower and boiled them to death.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:15 AM on September 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


How can anyone do that to another human being?

Yeah, yeah, I know the answer: by regarding them as subhuman. But how do you listen to those screams..?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:29 AM on September 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


Another conspiracy:

Four suspended HPD officers used ticket scheme to earn overtime pay

Four veteran Houston police officers who collected nearly $1 million in overtime pay combined since 2008 were recently suspended for listing one another as witnesses on traffic tickets to help themselves get overtime for testifying in court, according to records obtained Wednesday.

From 2008 to the present, the four officers who specialize in writing tickets together were paid $943,000 in overtime, city payroll records show.

The punishments handed down Sept. 4 by Police Chief Charles McClelland range from 20 to 45 days off without pay, concluding a lengthy investigation by HPD internal affairs triggered by tickets issued in April 2011.


Emphasis added. I just want to make it clear, this doesn't involve anyone directly killing citizens who they are sworn to protect. But this involves years of oppression of innocent people who were issued thousands of bogus tickets, which disproportionately affect the poor. This results in bogus convictions that can eventually result in arrests and incarceration, loss of jobs, vehicles, and income, and other effects up to and including death. So there is little justice to be had here, with officers merely suspended for up to 45 days.

Officer who took his life was part of ticket-rigging internal investigation
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:38 AM on September 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


I'm not trying to excuse them of individual responsibility, but...they work in one of worst places on earth built by us citizens, by our complacency, our fear, and our gullibility. They had heard a lot of screams in that place by that night. They were hardened to them.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:38 AM on September 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


“there is no glory in punishing”
― Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison
posted by Fizz at 9:41 AM on September 21, 2014 [9 favorites]


However, the Teamsters Union that represents the officers said Friday’s “massacre” was conducted without due process. Many of the officers, the union official said, were following protocols set forth by their bosses, who have not been held accountable.

While I hope that the union official is not arguing that the guards are therefore blameless, it would be nice to see the administrators at the various sites and within the system itself held accountable for their lack of oversight and perpetuation of a vicious culture. remember: the "few bad apples cliche is a warning that, if you are not regularly cleaning the bad apples out, the whole barrel goes rotten and has to be discarded.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:54 AM on September 21, 2014 [10 favorites]


It's pretty obvious that making prison a shitty place isn't working. Time to try something else.
posted by Talez at 10:01 AM on September 21, 2014 [10 favorites]


“While there is a lower class, I am in it, while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” ― Eugene V. Debs
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:23 AM on September 21, 2014 [26 favorites]


It's pretty obvious that making prison a shitty place isn't working. Time to try something else.

Unfortunately, it is working quite well for those who want a taxpayer-funded dehumanization and brutalization machine to keep Those People in their place.
posted by kewb at 10:35 AM on September 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


The people who are okay with prison guards boiling a mentally ill 50 year old black man to death can become okay with prison guards boiling literally anyone to death. When I first read this, I thought of that Debs quote too... but then I also thought of that one Niemoller quote...
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:30 AM on September 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


Previously on the Rainey case.

I'm with Thorzdad. Unfortunately, the asteroid is still a bust, guys. The good news is nuclear war is back on the table!
posted by ob1quixote at 11:36 AM on September 21, 2014


I agree, those in power should take responsibility, along with the individuals committing the violence, of course. There's no way in hell that management wasn't aware of the brutality and murders. They shouldn't just be fired; they should be arrested. But the other officers will protect their own, and prisoners are not going to be considered reliable witnesses. The extent of corruption is staggering, Florida should be up in arms.
posted by theora55 at 11:41 AM on September 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Can the federal government take over the FL prison system while they investigate the systemic conspiracy to deprive prisoners of their Constitutional right not to be beaten or boiled to death?
posted by etherist at 11:44 AM on September 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


I'm no career-professional warden, regional director or top leader, but like many non-wardens on this site, I've heard of the Stanford Prison Experiment. Some of the ways prison work can turn a guard into a monster are pretty well understood and documented. Management ought to be familiar this body of work and make sure it informs all operational processes and procedures. The union does a poor job of making a good point.
posted by klarck at 12:13 PM on September 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Okay, so this looks like a rhetorical question, but it's not: on the whole, why would management be interested in not turning guards into monsters? Are they incentivized in any way to keep guards from torturing inmates? If so, are there countervailing incentives toward encouraging guards to act like monsters that drown the first set of incentives out?
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:30 PM on September 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Calling a mass firing a "massacre" is beyond tasteless

I'll say not at all when one looks to language shift of Nixon and Watergate.

At the time of the 'Saturday Night Massacre' the reporting and smell of a rotting scandal was just underway.

Only time will tell if this issue just fizzles unlike the attempt at reform because of the actions of Nixon.
posted by rough ashlar at 12:59 PM on September 21, 2014


He collapsed and died, falling face-up on the shower drain. When guards found him, chunks of skin were slipping off his body, witnesses told the inspector general’s office. No one was held accountable.

Responsibility vanishing through the miracle of the passive voice.


Right? I mean, when a problem happens at work (and nothing even close to this serious) I, as the management person involved, don't just want to hear what happened and who got 'counseled' about what they did wrong as the proximate cause. I want to know how it is possible that it happened. A guard did a bad thing? Oh. How could he have thought that was a good idea? Is that in alignment with the culture we have here? If not, is this the first indication that this guy is not with the program? Where was his supervisor?

It seems like too many people are caught in this "union automatically defends the wrongdoer no matter how clearly guilty" / "outraged people want a head on a platter and don't care whose" low-level focus which conveniently doesn't change anything. We need more military-style "you're the captain + a bad thing happened on your ship = you're fired" mentality to get management to stop putting in responsibility-shield layers between them and the action.

"I can't personally control what each employee does every minute" is no excuse. No, you can't. But yes, you can. As a manager, your job is to set the vision and culture such that each autonomous person making individual decisions is making them based on that vision and the people who aren't on board with the vision are not in positions where they can singlehandedly sabotage it. You can set up the system so that good decisions are easier to make than bad ones. Every poor decision by a worker that is not prevented by a coworker or supervisor is a management failure. Every one. A huge problem like this over a long time and multiple offenders IS management's fault. By definition. No proof necessary.

So one guard gets fired: believable. But 32 guards and no managers? I'd say the union has a point here. It's about that, not about defending bad guards.
posted by ctmf at 1:03 PM on September 21, 2014 [36 favorites]


I've heard of the Stanford Prison Experiment

Except that most of what people have "heard" about it is pretty much false, or exaggerated.
posted by ShutterBun at 1:51 PM on September 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


Except that most of what people have "heard" about it is pretty much false, or exaggerated.

Funny(ish) you should link to Skeptoid for that, since Brian just started a 15 month stretch for wire fraud.

posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:54 PM on September 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


It sounds to me like Secretary Crews gets it and is trying to clean house. I'll bet he's getting some resistance on that from the inside, but it seems he's making a good faith effort to live up to his responsibility. (Whether on his own, or motivated by all the investigation.)
posted by ctmf at 2:04 PM on September 21, 2014


I got to see a mini-Stanford Experiment when an old military acquaintance and facebook "friend" of mine became a corrections officer. Before, he was a little too conservative for my tastes. It didn't take long for him to become incredibly callous, racist, classist, and just plain gross and proud of it. I'm just glad I quit facebook before the Ferguson events so I didn't have to see what he had to say about that.

I also noticed this in one of the linked articles: $55,000/yr for a Captain? There's part of the problem.
posted by ctmf at 2:11 PM on September 21, 2014


He collapsed and died, falling face-up on the shower drain. When guards found him, chunks of skin were slipping off his body, witnesses told the inspector general’s office. No one was held accountable.

Responsibility vanishing through the miracle of the passive voice.


I don't think the passive voice has anything to do with it. You could hope the story had ended like this: Several guards, a deputy warden, the prison's warden, the state commissioner of corrections and the governor of Florida were held accountable, tried on felony criminal charges, and convicted.

A huge difference, but still reported in passive voice.
posted by layceepee at 2:39 PM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Another conspiracy:

Four suspended HPD officers used ticket scheme to earn overtime pay


You realize that article was from 2012, right? And somewhat irrelevant to discuss cops giving too many tickets in a thread about corrections officers actively letting a man die by being scalded to death. Corrections officers are somewhat different than other cops--generally worse in terms of their views of humanity and willingness to let happen or perform depravity.
posted by librarylis at 2:47 PM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


You realize that article was from 2012, right?

You realize that the other link was from 2014, right?

I would have linked to the most recent update from Friday, but the source seemed less authoritative.

If you don't see the link between my topic and the FPP, I suggest you ponder how a conspiracy of law enforcement officers, who are paid by the state to protect their citizens, fits in here.
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:30 PM on September 21, 2014


As long as the largest punishment possible is losing ones job we will continue to see prison guards murder the people they are supposed to be guarding.

I don't blame the union, it's their job to protect employees within the union. On the other hand, it's the job of the cops to arrest murderers.
posted by el io at 3:49 PM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


But this involves years of oppression of innocent people who were issued thousands of bogus tickets, which disproportionately affect the poor. This results in bogus convictions that can eventually result in arrests and incarceration, loss of jobs, vehicles, and income, and other effects up to and including death. So there is little justice to be had here, with officers merely suspended for up to 45 days.

And there won't be justice here. Not now, not five years from now, not even ten.

The point is, the public feeds off the stories of tough on crime and "tough love". And politicians get elected based on that. The whole system is incentivized to have a permanent trod on underclass. Laws passed today to soothe the fears of a few stay around.

Our criminal justice system history is a history of fear. Recorded for posterity.
posted by formless at 3:54 PM on September 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


I wish I could favorite this comment by ctmf about 15 times.
posted by salvia at 4:24 PM on September 21, 2014


I don't blame the union, it's their job to protect employees within the union.

No. That's a common and damaging misconception, even among some union members. It isn't the union's job to protect individual employees in the union when they have done something wrong. It is their job to protect the employees, collectively, from having the system stacked against them. To make sure that they really have done something wrong, and that the punishment is proportional, not just that they pissed off the wrong person. And if that's the case, the union should let them burn. (And in my experience, the one where I work often will, to the employee's surprise)

But the issue that management is hanging employees to cover their incompetence at running the show, and not addressing that incompetence, that's a union issue.
posted by ctmf at 4:32 PM on September 21, 2014 [21 favorites]


I'd say the union has a point here. It's about that, not about defending bad guards.

They could maybe make that point without calling the firing of 32 psychopaths who gleefully tortured and murdered a "massacre".
posted by dirigibleman at 12:22 AM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


If the punishment for murdering someone by scalding them to death until their skin separates from their body was death by scalding until your skin separates from your body, I would wager we'd have many fewer occurrences of this kind of thing.

People at both the officer and management levels should be investigated, tried, and hung for these murders. And let's be clear: this isn't the death of an inmate, this isn't alleged brutality, this isn't even outright torture, although there are elements of all of them in this case. This is murder in the first. But instead of capital punishment, they get counseled, or perhaps, at worst, fired.

Oops it happened again. SURPRISE.

I don't care if you're workforce or management, what you get paid, if you're repped by a union or not. Murdering someone and not getting the same penalty as the common citizen is more criminal than the ordinary citizen doing the same. It's using the system to facilitate your atrocity.
posted by allkindsoftime at 3:01 PM on September 23, 2014


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