I’ve spent more than 800 hours inspecting and reporting on Florida’s prisons, friends. And I think conditions would be a lot better if more of my colleagues did the same.
Here’s why: Over the past few years, I have made over 100 visits to Florida’s public and private prisons, interviewing more than 300 inmates. As a state legislator, a rather unique Florida law allows me to show up unannounced at any time and inspect our state’s prisons exactly as they are – no primping or prepping. And what I have found is a disturbing pattern of abuse.
In one prison I visited, I went cell by cell and not one of the inmates had a roll of toilet paper. They’d been forced to use newspaper or rip their bed sheets – “You gotta do what you gotta do,” one inmate told me. Just a few feet away, the whole time, was a supply cabinet full of toilet paper.
At another prison, an inmate was denied his asthma inhaler for more than a month. At others, inmates were violently sexually harassed, pitted against each other by wardens, or forced to sleep with towels over their faces to avoid being cut as they slept.
No one, including inmates, deserves inhumane treatment like I’ve seen in some of Florida’s prisons.
But unfortunately, the Florida law that allows my investigative prison work has only extended to adult facilities – there are 21 state-run juvenile detention centers in Florida. We need unannounced access to also protect incarcerated youth against the conditions I’ve seen.
That’s why I introduced a bill to expand Florida’s law, authorizing state lawmakers to show up unannounced at juvenile facilities as well as adult. My bill was such a no-brainer that it passed with wide bipartisan support – in two chambers controlled by Republicans – and was signed into law by Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
Now I’m running for Congress in part because I want to go to Washington and face criminal justice reform head-on at the federal level.
Just a month into office, President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions scrapped an Obama administration order that would have phased out federal use of for-profit, private prisons. Well, I spent 30 years as a Certified Public Accountant and forensic auditor, and I’m more than ready to do an audit of our federal private prison system as well.
It is a moral imperative that we break the cycle of ignorance and inaction that has kept our prisons in this hellish state. It's time we make real change for incarcerated Americans.
I’m all in on this fight. I hope I can count on you to help me win this race, go to Washington, and actually get some work done in Congress.
Thank you for being on this journey with me,
Candidate for Congress, FL-27