Florida’s Department of Corrections, the nation’s third-largest with 128 prisons and other facilities housing more than 85,000 inmates, is in a multifaceted scandal that shows no sign of stopping, reports the Los Angeles Times. An interim chief appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush has been firing wardens and probing cases of possible corruption and cronyism among prison personnel, while state and federal agents have been investigating reports of a prison-based steroid ring, theft of state property, and misuse of inmate labor. “The absence of integrity, the brutality displayed and unleashed on others, and the dearth of leadership was totally unacceptable,” said interim Corrections Secretary James R. McDonough, a war veteran and former Florida drug czar.
For Ron McAndrew, a retired warden, the shake-up in the department where he worked for 23 years has come none too soon. “In the ’90s, we stood on our head, did everything possible to get rid of our ‘Cool Hand Luke’ image,” McAndrew said. In recent years, he said conditions in Florida prisons have often come to resemble “a sinister amalgam of the classic Paul Newman movie about the brutal treatment of convicts and the juvenile high jinks of National Lampoon’s ‘Animal House.’ ” McDonough is examining the propriety of two multimillion-dollar no-bid contracts awarded to a Tallahassee company to provide inmates with prescription drugs. He has frozen more than 50 employee club funds, opened by prison wardens, that weren’t under department oversight. The accounts might hold more than $1.5 million.