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Articles by Julie K. Brown

Rats, bugs and ‘natural’ deaths at nation’s largest women’s prison

by Julie K. Brown, Miami Herald

Yvonne McBride was a physically healthy 26-year-old woman when she entered Lowell Correctional Institution for women June 20, 2013.

The Florida Department of Corrections noted in its exam of McBride that, other than a bout of constipation and a history of depression, she was in good health. She had no fever, no cough, no chest pain or breathing problems. Her lungs and chest were clear, her heart was normal, her FDC medical records show.

But a month and four days later, McBride was dead.

The Miami Herald found that McBride is among untold numbers of Lowell inmates who have suffered serious misdiagnoses, delays in treatment and medical neglect over the past decade. The institution — the largest women’s prison in the nation — also has a long history, documented in reports and medical audits, of alarming and even life-threatening deficiencies, ranging from failing to provide routine medications to delaying treatment for inmates with potentially fatal illnesses.

McBride’s prison medical records show that she was seen in the prison infirmary July 23 for a fall. The nurse noted that McBride told her she had been ill for six days, coughing up mucus and feeling weak ...

At Lowell, sex, death and a probe riddled with questions

by Julie K. Brown, Miami Herald

Patrick Quercioli was big and burly, and with pumped muscles and an elaborate Indian tattoo on his arm, he looked more like a bodybuilder than a corrections officer.

Though he’d been arrested twice — once for allegedly dealing steroids and again, on charges of beating a motorist in a fit of road rage — Quercioli managed to persuade the Florida Department of Corrections to hire him in 2004.

Prisoners say Sgt. Q, as he was known, was among the most menacing officers at Lowell Correctional Institution for women, a man whose patience was not to be tested. But on Sept. 21, 2014, one inmate dared to do just that, after seeing something she wasn’t supposed to see: Quercioli allegedly having sex with an inmate in C Dorm, in a rear bathroom behind the officers’ station.

Disgusted, the inmate — Latandra Ellington — vowed to report it, even though, according to her, Quercioli threatened to kill her if she didn’t keep her mouth shut.

Ten days later, after telling her family and prison authorities about the threat, Ellington was found dead in a confinement cell at Lowell.

The death of Ellington, a mother of four ...

Bartered sex, corruption and cover-ups behind bars in nation’s largest women’s prison

by Julie K. Brown, Miami Herald

Casey Hodge stepped from the prison van, trembling under the weight of her thick handcuffs and leg shackles. The slight 25-year-old was led with a group of other women into a small room and ordered to strip naked.

“Show me your pink,” said a female corrections officer, instructing her to squat and cough so that they could peer between her legs and certify that she wasn’t concealing anything.

Hodge, who has been legally blind since she was 16, then was told to remove her glass eye. “They wanted to make sure I wasn’t hiding anything in my socket,’’ she remembers. So she pulled it out with her fingers. The officers nearly fell off their chairs, she said, mocking her like children and pretending to vomit.

“I felt like I was a kid, being bullied all over again,” said Hodge, who had never been in trouble with the law before her arrest on drug trafficking charges in 2012.

Hodge once dreamed of growing up to be a photographer. Now she was inmate No. 155778, sentenced to three years to be served at Lowell Correctional Institution, a state prison that houses the five women on Florida’s ...