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$1.8 Million Settlement in Beating of Florida Jail Prisoner

by David M. Reutter

Florida’s Broward County Sheriff’s Office (BCSC) agreed to pay $1.8 million to settle a civil rights action, in mid-trial, brought by a former prisoner who was left brain damaged after a beating from other prisoners, who were encouraged by guards.

When Dana C. Jones entered the Broward County Jail (BCJ) on November 2, 2004, on a domestic violence charge for hitting his mother, he was known to be mentally ill. The trial court overseeing his charges found him incompetent, ordering him to the Florida State Hospital for treatment in February 2005.

Jones was returned to BCJ in August 2005 with instructions that he be given “mood stabilizing medications.” Psychiatrist Mercy Gonzalez, who was employed by BCJ’s medical contractor Armor Correctional Health Services, found Jones exhibited signs of mental illness, finding him to be “hostile, angry, refus[ing] to speak, inappropriate behavior, oppositional, aggressive, manipulative, no eye contact, increased motor activity, and poor judgment.”

Gonzalez provided no mental health care or psychotropic medication for Jones, nor did she order him to a “behavioral health unit.” Instead, Jones was placed in open population to sleep in a “blue plastic boat” in the open area of the cellblock because there were no empty cells or bunks. The complaint alleged this arrangement for sleeping violated a previous consent decree on overcrowded conditions at BCJ.

When Jones felt that he had not been given his lunch on December 16, 2005, he had a verbal dispute with guard Monica Blair, using a sexual epithet and racial remark towards her. After she had him counseled by other guards, she incited other prisoners to “do something” about Jones making the slur against her.

While the cellblock was in its normal lockdown, guards did not make rounds between 1:51 p.m. and 3:22 p.m. When other prisoners began beating on their doors, a guard came to find Jones lying in “a pool of clotted blood” and “gargling blood from his mouth.” His injuries were so severe that he remained in a coma-like state for months, and he now resides in a nursing home, unable to walk or talk.

To avoid the medical costs associated with his care, BCSO had Jones released from custody. It also dropped its investigation into what transpired in the beating after another prisoner allegedly flunked a polygraph test.

That review is being reopened. “Now that the civil thing is out of the way, that frees us up to do a top to bottom as to how all this happened,” said BCSO Sheriff Al Lamberti. The lawsuit was settled on September 8, 2008, and Jones was represented by Fort Lauderdale attorneys Barbara Heyer and Douglas McIntosh. See: Jones v. Jenne, USDC, S.D. Florida, Case No: 07-CV-60839

In other Broward County news, former sheriff Kenneth Jenne has been hired as a consultant to develop political strategies for businesses seeking government contracts by Fort Lauderdale law firm Rothstein, Rosenfeldt, and Adler. Considering his credentials include a corruption conviction for taking money from BCSO vendors, lying on tax returns, and abusing the public trust that resulted in 10 ½ months in federal prison, the new position for Jenne seems odd or an approved way of doing business in government if you don’t get caught.

Additional source: Miami Herald

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Related legal case

Jones v. Jenne