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GCI Corruption Continues

In the September '94 and June '95 issues of PLN we reported the ongoing probes into corruption at Glades Correctional Institute (GCI), a medium security prison located near West Palm Beach Florida. In Turner v. LaMarca , 995 F.2d 1526 (11th Cir. 1993), a federal court found that GCI prisoners were routinely raped and brutalized with the full knowledge and acquiescence of prison staff during the 1970's and 1980's. An appeals court in another case cited rampant staff corruption, noting: "The contraband problem was compounded by staff corruption, as prison officials contributed to, and apparently profited from, the contraband, and utilized prisoners to 'control' and punish other prisoners."

A March 1994 investigation found that GCI was paying $5.42 for a tube of toothpaste that sells for $.97 in drugstores. Despite the fact that the GCI purchasing manager is a personal friend of the supplier who reaped exorbitant profits, the contract was not terminated and the purchasing manager was never disciplined.

In January of 1995 six prisoners escaped from GCI through a tunnel under the chapel. The escape received national media attention and prompted a grand jury probe into GCI. Among other deficiencies, the grand jury noted that 77 GCI employees had criminal arrest records, and that a "number of correctional officers cannot read or write." But that wasn't the first time a grand jury had investigated GCI. A previous grand jury cited "accusations of drugs, alcohol and other contraband, gambling, theft, confiscation, and payoffs among inmates and personnel of GCI." These grand jury investigations culminated in reports with numerous recommendations, none of which were binding on the DOC. In turn, the DOC failed to implement the grand jury reforms, blaming the legislature for a lack of funds.

Independent of the grand jury probe, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) launched an investigation of GCI after the January escape. After a nine-month investigation FDLE released a report of their findings. They investigated allegations of drug sales and possession, official misconduct, unlawful compensation, bribery, theft, gambling between guards and prisoners, guards smuggling drugs into the prison and making telephone calls to prisoners' families to arrange drug deals. FDLE interviewed 77 prisoners, several guards and many people in the community and at other prisons. Prisoners implicated 45 employees of wrongdoing, according to an FDLE summary report.

Only eight guards were highlighted in the report, however, because their alleged misdeeds were corroborated by people other than prisoners. The eight guards named in the report are Lt. Walstine Brown, Sgt. Tracy Dixon, Sgt. Roosevelt Mitchell, Croswell Bookal, Bobby Hall, Alvin Laws, Joseph McKelton and Eddie Pettigrew. Two of the guards - Alvin Laws and Croswell Bookal - agreed to give investigators more information about their misdeeds and other GCI corruption, if they were given immunity by the state attorney's office.

Their request was denied. Could that be an indication that the state attorney was playing hardball? The same day the FDLE report was issued, Joe Marx, chief of the state attorney's office organized crime and official corruption unit wrote a memo to state attorney Barry Krischer. The memo, which was released to the press, stated that no criminal charges would be filed against the eight GCI guards. For any of the corruption allegations to hold up in court, Marx wrote, evidence other than testimony from a convicted felon would be necessary. Marx said the investigation was nonetheless important because it would "bring to light serious inadequacies at GCI."

Marx's memo listed a number of reforms the DOC should implement. But DOC Secretary Harry Singletary minimized the necessity for the reforms, saying that some of them are already being implemented. GCI warden Gerald Abdul-Wasi put a more realistic spin on the situation. "There have been problems of this type here for years," he said. Since GCI is so isolated, literally in the back water of the south Florida everglades, it serves as a dumping ground for guards and DOC officials from all over Florida to make up for the shortage of local applicants. "This is a small town here," said Abdul-Wasi. "Where are you going to pull them from? It ain't getting any better."

Source :Palm Beach Post

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