For at least the second time in four years the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) is making headlines for connections between its employees and white supremacist groups.
In July 2021, when sixteen members of a white supremacist gang were arrested—on a racketeering indictment that included charges of murder and kidnapping—prosecutors alleged that “corrupt law enforcement officers and state employees” including prison guards abetted the gang in collecting intelligence on the investigation and smuggling contraband.
But back in 2017 it was three current or former state prison guards who were also members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) that were convicted of conspiring to kill a Black ex-prisoner in Palatka after the FBI caught them on tape plotting the murder two years earlier.
A month before the most recent DOC kerfuffle, in June 2021, three Jackson Correctional Institution guards bragged about their white-supremacist ties as they assaulted, stunned and pepper sprayed a prisoner screaming, “I can’t breathe!”
According to a fellow prisoner, Jamaal Reynolds, who reported the incident at the prison near the Alabama border to DOC’s Office of the Inspector General, the same guards did the same thing the next day to another prisoner.
“If you notice these two incidents were people of color,” Reynolds’ report pointed out, adding that the guards “let it be known they are white supremacist” and that “Black officers and white officers don’t even mingle with each other” at the prison.
The problem is not a new one in Florida. A report in PLN over 20 years ago noted that “fake hunting regulations prominently posted in a Calhoun Correctional Institution colonel’s office read, ‘OPEN SEASON ON PORCH MONKEYS.’” [See: PLN, Sep. 2001, p.6]
In 2015, when a Black prisoner named Warren Williams was released from Regional Medical Center (RMC) in Lake Butler, Florida, the prisoner processing center for DOC, a guard named Thomas Driver was apparently still nursing a grudge over losing a fight to Williams two years before. A KKK member, Driver went to a Klan meeting on March 19, 2015, where he conspired with fellow Klansmen to have Williams killed. Unknown to most of the group at the time was that the head of security of this assembly, Joseph Moore, was a paid confidential informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Driver and Moore, along with Klansman Sarge Moran and Exalted Cyclops (local chief) Charles Newcomb devised a plot to kidnap Williams and inject him with an overdose of insulin, a painful way to die marked by uncontrollable tremors. But since a person’s blood sugar level continues to decline after death, it is difficult for medical examiners to detect insulin overdose unless they look specifically for certain indicators like needle penetration.
The FBI had Moore and his truck wire-tapped and caught the entire plot on tape. Moran was arrested at the prison where he had worked as a guard for over ten years. He and Newcomb were tried for conspiracy to commit murder and convicted in August of 2017, each receiving a prison sentence of 12 years. Driver pleaded guilty to his charge and was sentenced to four years and was due to be released in 2021.
Fast-forward to July 2021, when the sixteen people arrested on the 12-count racketeering indictment were charged with murder, kidnapping, and more. All sixteen were members of the “Unforgiven,” a Florida-based white supremacist gang, with members in positions of law enforcement and politics.
The gang allegedly infiltrated and corrupted government and law enforcement agencies to assist in smuggling contraband into Florida’s prison system, gathering information on any investigations concerning their own activities.
But the Unforgiven also has incoming members study “Aryan Philosophy” and perform extreme acts of violence for entry. Members have been arrested for acts of violence at Black Lives Matter movement protests in 2020 and the violent protest at which the U.S. Capitol was breached on January 6, 2021.
A 2006 FBI document prepared for a congressional committee hearing on domestic terrorist groups noted that
“[w]hite supremacist groups have historically engaged in strategic efforts to infiltrate and recruit from law enforcement.” It added that law enforcement agencies at times volunteered “professional resources to white supremacist causes with which they sympathize.” Which makes it appear that they tend to share a natural affinity.
With a stronger hold on the Florida government than may be expected, such domestic terrorist gangs have allegedly gained many positions (including positions of authority) in politics and law enforcement in the state. Yet, the situation is largely being ignored.
There are a number of instances that show these domestic terrorist groups have held positions of authority in Florida dating back to 1925, when known Klansman R.J. Hancock was elected sheriff of Putnam County, lynching Blacks with impunity until the governor threatened Martial Law.
More recently, in 2014, the 49-year-old police chief in Fruitland Park, Florida, David Borst, was forced to resign and an officer under him, George Hunnewell, was fired, after the FBI outed both as members of the KKK.
The problem is not limited to Florida. Three years later, just 10 days after the “Unite the Right” march in April 2017 turned deadly in Charlottesville, Virginia, the new interim police chief in Colbert, Oklahoma, 50-year-old Bart Alsbrook, began a stint that was cut short four months later when he was found to have ties to a neo-Nazi group called Blood & Honor.
Then in May 2021, Wilkinson County, Georgia, Sheriff’s Deputy Cody Richard Griggers was arrested after he was taped boasting about targeting Blacks for felony arrests so that they would lose their right to vote.
Florida state Rep. Dianne Hart (D-Tampa) is also concerned about the number of white supremacists in the state DOC and has asked the FBI to investigate more deeply, worried about the authority these guards have over non-white prisoners.
“I have heard from correctional officers, inmates, and families about how deep this problem goes,” Hart said. PLN has been reporting on prison employees being members of violent organized white supremacist, and Neo Nazi organizations since its inception in 1990. It is a national phenomenon and one that continues unabated. Indeed, it is so widespread and pervasive that official tolerance and encouragement at the highest levels of prison management and state government are the only explanation for how this continues year after year for decades.
Some apologists for the American police state say that prisons and law enforcement have a violent white supremacist hiring problem with their employees due to the remote, rural location so many prisoners have been located in to provide jobs for poor, rural white people. Yet other employers in these same locales, Walmart for example, do not seem to have these problems recruiting from the same job pool. Why do so many local Nazis wind up working in prisons and jails?
Sources: Associated Press, Daily Beast, Macon Telegraph, NBC News, PBS, Salon, WPTV-TV, Yahoo! News
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