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In Wake Of Recent Firings, Prison Chief Slated To Wrap Up 'Zero Tolerance' Tour


Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Mike Crews is slated to end his statewide tour next week of state correctional facilities in the wake of a series of suspicious inmate deaths under the agency’s care. It comes as six correctional employees in the panhandle were fired and arrested Wednesday for beating an inmate.

While he doesn't have a specific date, Crews’ last and 49th correctional facility to visit will be Gadsden County Re-entry Center.

“One of the things that we’ve been adamant since we began visiting all 49 of our institutions is that we will have zero-tolerance for inmate abuse. We made that very clear,” said Crews, in a phone interview Friday.

The department had come under fire recently for the death of mentally ill inmate Darren Rainey two years ago, who was allegedly locked in a scalding hot shower by guards in a South Florida prison and the agency’s handling of that investigation.

Crews recently implemented a new policy as part of a series of reforms that any correctional employees who commit any crime will be fired from the job. And, he’s already put it into action with six employees at Northwest Florida Reception Center in Chipley.

“Based on some allegations of inmate abuse, based on credible factual information that we had, we determined that there was enough there for us to move forward and having those individuals not only arrested, but terminated from our agency,” added Crews.

In that case, five correctional employees are now facing felony charges for the battery of inmate Jeremiah Tatum. Captain James Kirkland also received those same charges with an additional charge of official misconduct. According to the arrest report, Kirkland ordered the takedown of the 31-year-old prisoner who already had his leg and hands restrained. The guards were caught on video slamming Tatum’s face into the ground, and later beating him. The report also states that Kirkland had told the officers to lie and say Tatum had instigated the beating by spitting in his face.

According to a David Angier, a spokesman of the 14th Judicial Circuit Court, all six are slated to appear before a judge October 9th. They are all also no longer in the Washington County Jail and are out on bond.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.