A record number of 346 Florida inmates died behind bars last year, reports NPR. Most were from natural causes, but a series of suspicious deaths have raised questions about safety in the prisons. Federal and state law enforcement agencies are investigating why so many inmates have been dying. Latandra Ellington, 36, was serving time for tax fraud when she died. Algarene Jennings, her aunt, believes she was murdered, citing evidence of blunt force trauma. The agency blamed her death on natural causes.
It’s just one of the deaths that have thrown a spotlight on Florida’s prisons. Miami Herald stories documented a pattern of inhumane treatment, abuse and unexplained inmate deaths, and prompted Florida’s legislature to take action. With more than 100,000 men and women behind bars, the state has the nation’s third-largest prison population. Over the last six years, the budget was cut by a half-billion dollars. Vacant positions were left unfilled and inmate health care and building maintenance suffered.