Michael Crews, the embattled secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections, announced he will step down, after months of scrutiny involving abusive corrections officers, suspicious inmate deaths and a poor record of inmate healthcare delivered by private contractors, the Miami Herald reports. Crews' exit had been rumored for weeks. It comes amid allegations of widespread agency corruption and the failure of Crews' top law enforcement officer, Inspector General Jeffery Beasley, to investigate wrongdoing in the prison system. Crews' deputy, Tim Cannon, will replace him on an interim basis. Crews, the sixth prisons chief in eight years, presided over the state's largest agency, with 101,000 inmates, 56 prisons and 21,000 employees.
After stories about abusive corrections officers and inmate deaths, Crews announced in August the firings of more than two dozen guards, as well as prison reforms designed to address deficiencies in the way inmates, especially those with mental illnesses, are treated. A study by a criminal justice think-tank concluded the reforms were not radical enough to change a culture that has led to dangerous, brutal and in some cases, deadly, prisons. “Both the firings and recommendations remain reactive steps, internally limited, and still do not address systemic weaknesses and failings of accountability,'' said the Project on Accountable Justice at Florida State University.