In a blistering condemnation of Florida’s prison system, current and former inspectors told legislators they were repeatedly ordered to ignore evidence of crimes committed by corrupt officials because doing so would give the Department of Corrections a “black eye,” the Miami Herald reports. Three inspectors and one former inspector, speaking publicly for the first time, testified under oath about interference as they attempted to weed out inmate abuse, medical neglect, gang violence and organized crime. The inspectors cited cases to the Senate Criminal Justice Committee when they were told to withhold information from prosecutors, to close investigations into staffers who were politically connected and to avoid bringing criminal charges no matter how much evidence they had.
“We are at the point where we can no longer police ourselves,” said John Ulm of the Inspector General's Office. Ulm and others reported that after being told to back off cases, they sometimes pursued them anyway because the misconduct was so blatant they couldn't ignore it. Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones dismissed the inspectors' testimony, saying it “represents one view of several incidents that happened years ago.'' While she said the cases the inspectors testified about “when appropriate, were presented to the State Attorney's Office for prosecution,'' the inspectors testified that the opposite was true.