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Florida Prison Officials Ordered to Not Retaliate Against Prisoner

Florida federal district Judge Mark E. Walker entered a protective order to end retaliation against state prisoner Johnny Hill.

The court’s January 28, 2020, order was entered to protect one of the plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit challenging the conditions of confinement in Florida’s segregation units. [See PLN, March 2020, p. 47.] Hill is housed in a closed management unit at Santa Rosa Correctional Institution (SRCI). His motion for a protective order alleged that guard Kyle Masters branded him a snitch for suing the prison, physically assaulted him and harassed him.

The alleged retaliation occurred during transport from SRCI to the Northwest Florida Reception Center Annex (NWFRC) for an eye-doctor appointment. Once at NWFRC, “Masters beat Mr. Hill with so much force that Mr. Hill began to urinate blood and experienced pain in his lower back and flank for more than a week after the attack,” the motion for protective order stated.

On the way back to SRCI, Master pulled a gun out of his holster and told Hill in effect, “If you say anything back at Santa Rosa, I can make sure that you have a sudden ‘K2 overdose.’” (K2 overdoses, according to an FDC internal audit, have been the leading cause of in-custody deaths in recent years.) Hill also was deprived of meals, had his property damaged, and was threatened with pepper spray for expressing his right to access the courts.

Hill’s grievance on the matter did not result in action, nor did efforts by his attorneys.

The court found that a “video described by Warden [Michael] Mashburn did not depict Plaintiff Hill.” It also found prison officials “failed to preserve the video that would either substantiate Plaintiff Hill’s claim or refute it.” A deposition of Hill in the class action is scheduled, and Hill feared retaliation if he participated further in the case.

“This court finds it prudent to issue a protective order that would prohibit retaliation so that this Court may properly achieve the ends of justice entrusted to it,” Judge Walker wrote in his order.

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