Segregation inside Florida prisons

According to the findings letter from the U.S. Department of Justice, investigators discovered a number of unlawful practices at the Escambia County Jail facility in northwest Florida that “constitute severe threats to prisoner safety.” The inmates’ limited access to mental healthcare and the segregation of black and foreign prisoners on the basis of race were two of these issues.
In particular, the department came to the conclusion that the facility’s long-standing structural issues, which are mostly the result of staffing shortages, continue to put prisoners at an unacceptably high risk of being attacked by other inmates and receiving subpar mental health care. The department also discovered that the jail had a long-standing informal policy and practice of reserving parts of its housing units exclusively for African-American and foreign inmates. The jail stigmatized and discriminated against many of its African-American inmates by isolating some of them based on race, and it also stoked racial tensions by doing so.
Black prisoners had been kept apart based on race in “black-only pods” for many years. During a tour in October 2013, justice officials learned about the practice for the first time. They alerted Escambia County Jail administrators at the time that this violated their right to equal protection under the 14th Amendment. The findings letter states that “for decades, the Jail’s authorities have presumed that racial segregation would result in a safer facility.” There are 23.1 percent African Americans and 70 percent white people living in Escambia County. There are 1,442 inmates in the county jail, of which 65% are black and 35% are white.

Despite David Morgan, an attorney for Escambia, telling the Justice Department in April that racial segregation had ended, Austin stated in his letter that the Justice Department “will want to ensure that any agreement we reach with the Jail completely and permanently eliminates racially segregated housing units.” As a result of escalating racial tensions within the facility, their inquiry found that “the practice of segregating on the basis of race has jeopardized security.”

What are the Florida Solitary Confinement Statistics?

Inmates now held in solitary confinement are discussed in a study by Florida State University and the University of Cincinnati. The study found that some demographic groups in Florida prisons are more likely than other offenders to experience long-term isolation. Black people, guys, young people, and prisoners with mental health concerns have been identified as the demographic groups that are most likely.
A analysis of over 190,000 inmates’ records conducted administratively between 2007 and 2015 in the Florida prison system reveals that Black convicts were nearly twice as likely to experience long-term solitary confinement. Compared to white prisoners, Hispanics were 1.7 times more likely to experience solitary confinement. Inmates between the ages of 18 and 24 are 15 times more likely than those over the age of 50 to be held in solitary confinement.

Additionally, a comparatively large number of prisoners with mental illnesses were kept in solitary confinement. Experts have emphasized that because of their seclusion, these prisoners’ mental health is likely to deteriorate. The likelihood of placing an inmate in solitary confinement increased fourteen times for those who spent time in mental health institutions.The state prison system has come under fire for a variety of isolation practices that some people consider to be solitary confinement. Experts, activists, and former prisoners who have served time in prison all share this criticism. Even if offenders have cellmates in their prison facilities, they could still be kept in smaller quarters with less time for outside-the-cell privileges. The claim is that it can still have effects akin to isolation even in these circumstances.

The Marshall Project, a nonprofit organization working to improve the criminal justice system in the United States, studied the deaths of several people who were murdered by their cellmates while living in restrictive conditions and discovered that isolation leads to tension and poor mental health among cellmates. Experience of a St. Petersburg Resident with Solitary Confinement 39-year-old Chez-Armand Blackwell, a citizen of St. Petersburg, has spent nearly 12 of his 15 years in prison in solitary confinement. Blackwell claimed that after arguing with a guard, he was first placed in solitary confinement while serving a burglary sentence. He was originally sent in solitary because of an argument that got out of hand and resulted in a brawl. But after that, according to Blackwell, the guards continued to write him up and lengthen the period of time he had to spend alone in isolation.

Solitary confinement is still a problem right now, not just in Florida but all around the country. It appears that some features of jail may be doing more harm than good, despite the fact that it is intended to be a place where offenders may recover and learn from their misdeeds before being released back into society.


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