A north Florida correctional officer is facing charges of assaulting an inmate with a chemical agent and lying about it. He was arrested Tuesday and fired from the state’s prison agency.
Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones says she has a “zero tolerance” policy for the mistreatment of Florida’s inmates. That’s also something she said months ago to Florida lawmakers, mirroring the philosophies of her predecessor.
“Before his retirement, Secretary [Mike] Crews began this building process through I think an unfairly unprecedented, thorough assessment of the agencies’ culture,” said Jones, back in February. “And, he enacted a mantra of zero-tolerance for any abuse or misconduct. And, we plan to continue to expand on those initiatives.”
The department has been under scrutiny for multiple inmate deaths, allegations of abuse by prison guards, and cover ups. Lawmakers looked into passing a comprehensive prison reform package that ultimate failed.
But Governor Rick Scott issued an Executive Order, following the end of the legislative session—taking different areas of the prison reform proposal.
It includes tracking excessive use of force cases and making sure policies are in place to monitor the use of chemical agents used on inmates. Jones says chemical spray is the one example of use of force she gets the most questions about.
“And, the question is ‘how do you know someone hasn’t gassed an inmate and not said something about it,’” she stated. “Those canisters are weighed at the beginning of the shift and at the end of the shift, and if they break the seal, we know it and we know how much you’ve used. And, you have to check it out, sign it in and out. So, there are a lot of checks and balances. So, I’m confident that we do detect the majority of use of force.”
But, it was announced Tuesday that last week an inmate got gassed by a chemical agent. The Lake City Correctional officer, Adrian Hill, had reported that he’d sprayed 18-year-old Phillip Alderman, after he’d refused to go back in his cell and cursed at him.
But, in a video, Alderman does not appear to be resisting Hill’s commands. It shows Hill dragging Alderman on the floor and then spraying him in the face, unprovoked.
Hill has already turned himself into the Columbia County sheriff’s deputies. And, the office of the Inspector General is indicating more arrests could be made as the investigation into the incident remains open.
DOC’s Inspector General Jeff Beasley says it is possible for prison guards to get around the agency’s checks.
“So, in areas of the application of chemical agent, it would be somewhat difficult and would require—for lack of a better term—a conspiracy between that officer, the arsenal sergeant who issues and weighs, the personnel that reviews those inventories to make sure if a canister returns, there should be subsequent incident report, use of force report, or other things to go with that.”
Hill is charged with Falsifying Official Records and Battery on an inmate.
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