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Department Of Corrections Workers Share Their View From The Inside

Virus Outbreak First Responders Back to Work
Chris Carlson
Florida's ongoing shortage of correctional workers was made worse by the pandemic.

Florida prisons are getting a shake down after reports of corruption and prisoner abuse. Now Senators are asking those with an inside view to help give them a better understanding of what’s happening in Florida’s prisons.

Organized crime, murder, abuse and retaliation. That’s what Florida prison workers told a Senate committee they’ve witnessed and feared while on the job. And John Ulm, a senior law enforcement inspector with the Inspector General’s office says the department needs help getting it under control.

“We’re no  longer to the point where we can police ourselves adequately,” Ulm says.

Ulm claims he’s had investigations get stopped interrupted or even sabotaged.

“I had a warrant go missing on a criminal case that I was working – a search warrant that gave me the lawful command to do what I did and I’ve taken hundreds of them in my prior employment. That warrant went missing from the Inspector General’s Office of the Department of Corrections,” Ulm says.

Ulm says as a result he ended up the subject of an internal investigation. In fact he says he’s spent months under investigations he thinks were launched to get him to back off his own inquiries. Ulm made his statements under oath during a Senate Criminal Justice Committee earlier this week.  Committee Chair Greg Evers asked former and current Department of Corrections Officers to share the troubles they’ve seen while working in the department. But he says first he talked to their boss, DOC Secretary Julie Jones.

“I’d like for everybody to understand, Secretary Jones said that these folks would not be retaliated against for any testimony that was given. I believe she went on the record saying that a couple of weeks ago,” Evers says.

Gulf County Sheriff Mike Harrison also testified under oath. He says when he worked for the Inspector General’s office his investigations were halted on more than one occasion.

“I come from a law enforcement background, not so much an administrative, investigative background. I was used to if someone broke the law that you took the charge to the state attorney’s office and proceed forward. That did not appear to be the case within the inspector general’s office. It was quite frustrating to me,” Harrison says.

Harrison was part of an investigation involving a warden who allegedly helped cover up the actions of a nurse that put the lives of two prisoners at risk. Harrison says the nurse and Warden were allegedly in a relationship. And he says he felt he had criminal evidence against the warden, but his supervisors told him not to bring that information to the state attorney.

In that case, Harrison says no criminal charges were pursued. The warden was fired. But he later sued for wrongful terminations and won damages from the state.

Meanwhile, DOC Secretary Julie Jones’s office sent out a statement saying she feels the testimony given during the committee represents just one view of what might have happened. She says she is “disappointed” the committee did not allow for a full explanation of the events from all parties involved.

Follow @Regan_McCarthy

Regan McCarthy is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media. Before coming to Tallahassee, Regan graduated with honors from Indiana University’s Ernie Pyle School of Journalism. She worked for several years for NPR member station WFIU in Bloomington, Ind., where she covered local and state government and produced feature and community stories.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

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