Florida’s Proposal to Create a Prison-Within-A-Prison During Pandemic Arguably Violates Prisoners’ Eighth Amendment Rights
In early May, a proposal to create a separate category of prison within Florida’s central prison system–an area referred to as an “administration management unit” (AMU)–was put forth, whereby “troublemakers” within the prison would reportedly be segregated from the rest of the general prison population. Critics have indicated that it represents the administration’s attempt to deny inmates’ civil rights while everyone is distracted by the coronavirus pandemic.
It is also concerning that as few as two disciplinary reports could result in an inmate being placed in the new unit with only a quasi-judicial disciplinary hearing before doing so. Unfortunately, prison staff have a significant amount of discretion to create disciplinary reports for these transgressions–real or imagined; serious or minor–that could land inmates in these AMUs as well; For example, kicking the door or complaining loudly can constitute “inciting a riot” and send you there.
Previously Successful Litigation Brought Against Florida Department of Corrections
This has long been an issue in Florida’s prison system, whereby minor transgressions can lead to severe penalties that often have implications for inmates’ civil rights. With the third largest prison population in the entire country, inmates in Florida’s prisons are frequently subject to inhumane practices that include excessive force, conditions of confinement that violate their constitutional rights, censorship in violation of their First Amendment rights, medical malpractice, and wrongful death. The Florida Department of Corrections has been sued for and settled cases related to systematically violating disability laws, failure to provide basic medical services (such as medically necessary surgeries), failing to protect inmates from brutal attacks and injuries, denying paralyzed inmates necessary wheelchairs, wrongful death in connection with physical abuse from prison guards and staff, and additional violations.
Current Violations in Conjunction with COVID-19 Management
In connection with COVID-19, a number of prisons are currently facing class action lawsuits over their handling of the coronavirus outbreak inside facilities and violating prisoners’ Eighth Amendment rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, where a number of inmates have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus and died as a result. These lawsuits allege that departments have failed to follow recommendations specifically created for correctional facilities by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to implement basic safety precautions allowing inmates to safely socially distance from one another.
In closely examining the AMU proposal put forth by Florida’s Department of Corrections, it is clear that the purpose of the proposal is to punish an inmate’s “negative behavior,” and, similarly to what prisoners around the country are alleging in their litigation, it is arguably not in accordance with those recommendations put forth for inmates by the CDC to manage COVID-19 in correctional facilities. The rule will reportedly now go through notice and comment rulemaking before it is finalized.
If You Have Questions or Concerns, Contact The Very Best in Florida Civil Rights Defense
If you or a loved one has suffered from civil rights violations here in Florida, contact the Orlando civil rights lawyers at The Baez Law Firm today to find out how we can help.