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Bad Apples in Florida DOC

Kenneth Smith, fired from four separate Florida prisons, exemplifies a problem the Florida DOC has: keeping "bad apples" out of the barrel. Smith was fired from prisons for repeatedly violating prison rules, drunken driving, and a criminal conviction for resisting arrest, yet always managed to get rehired at a different prison. At one prison, FCI in Lowell, Fl, Smith was accused of conducting an 18-month sex spree that included raping one prisoner - a charge he denies - and having sex with at least five others. Smith was fired from his last prison job on October 6, 1995.

A cursory investigation by the Florida legislature's House Corrections Committee and by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) have uncovered more than three dozen instances where guards who were fired for criminal misconduct or quit amid allegations of misconduct at the prisons where they were employed, have been rehired by two other prisons. One of the two prisons identified as the recipients of most of the "bad apples" is Glades Correctional Institution (GCI). PLN has written a number of articles over the years about corruption and mismanagement at GCI. The other of the two, Gadsden Correctional Institution, is a 900-bed female prison owned and operated by U.S. Corrections Corp. of Louisville, KY.

At Gadsden, state officials say 12 guards who were either fired from the state prison system or who left amid allegations of misconduct have been hired by the private prison firm. Jane Grizzard, Gadsden's warden, said all of the former state corrections employees hired by the private prison, even those who left the DOC under a cloud, have performed "satisfactorily."

At Glades (GCI), the FDLE found 25 guards with criminal records that include convictions for crimes such as narcotics, concealed weapons violations, DUI, shoplifting and aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer. Dozens more have arrest records but no convictions.

One GCI guard was convicted of trespassing, counseled following allegations of verbal and physical sexual assault on a female guard and racked up a work record that includes a reprimand, a 10-day suspension without pay and a bout with alcoholism. He was promoted to major in 1990 and given a 25 percent salary increase in 1994.

Florida has nearly 15,000 guards working in more than 50 major prisons. During 1993-95, 932 were fired over disciplinary problems, including inability to perform duties, conduct unbecoming an officer and fighting, violence or threatening behavior towards prisoners. Only about half of those had their state law enforcement certification revoked, which makes it relatively easy for them to be rehired.

"From time to time all of us make mistakes," said Corrections Secretary Harry Singletary. "If you hire 1,400 people in a year, you make some mistakes. I don't think it's as big a problem as it seems to be."

Sources: Tampa Tribune, Palm Beach Post

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