Judith Arrascue says she has tried for months to find out what happened to her husband, Luis, a state prison inmate who died in April. Yesterday, says the Miami Herald, Florida's Department of Corrections unveiled a new online database of inmate deaths that reveals Arrascue died after he “fell down on the sidewalk'' outside one of the prison dorms. His death, the summary says, was accidental. Arrascue remained suspicious. She has no autopsy, no incident report, and no other details except that her husband's head “smashed like a watermelon'' on the concrete pavement. “How can that be an accident?'' his wife asked, weeping. “He was pushing a man in a wheelchair.''
Florida's Department of Corrections, facing intensifying scrutiny over a growing number of suspicious inmate deaths and reports of alleged abuse involving prison guards, introduced the online database cataloging all inmate deaths over the past 14 years. The database lists inmates by name, prison, race and manner of death, and supplies other details that the Herald had been trying to obtain from the department since May, when the newspaper began a series of articles about prison deaths. Corrections Secretary Michael Crews said the move is another in a series of reforms aimed at increasing “transparency and accountability into the functions of the department.'' Some prison advocates were critical, saying the database doesn't go far enough. “It's more data to work with, but in the larger scheme of things what you need to see is transparency on investigations of alleged malfeasance,'' said Brad Brockmann of the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights at Miriam Hospital/Brown University Medical School in Providence, R.I.