A coalition of 14 human rights groups is calling for a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into Florida state prisons, reports the Miami Herald. The groups contend that “immediate intervention” is necessary to stop the widespread abuse, neglect, torture and deaths of inmates. Writing to Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, the group cited a list of suspected criminal and civil rights violations against prisoners, including torture and death by starvation, excessive use of force, medical neglect, misuse of solitary confinement, suicide, sexual assault and death and torture by scalding. The letter cites 17 inmates who allegedly died under one or more of those conditions, as well as three others who continue to suffer as a result of violence and neglect suffered in the state prison system.
“Given the Florida Department of Corrections' pattern and practice of consistently failing to remedy these pervasive and egregious problems, only the Department of Justice can properly address these violations,'' the coalition wrote. The group, headed by Florida's ACLU, expressed particular concern about the abuse and deaths of inmates who suffer from mental illnesses, citing several who have died under suspicious circumstances. Inmates Darren Rainey died in 2012 after he was left for more than two hours in a shower with temperatures in excess of 180 degrees. Rainey's death is already the subject of a federal civil rights inquiry, as well as a state criminal investigation. Several other deaths at Dade Correctional Institution were cited, including Richard Mair, another inmate who suffered from mental illness who hanged himself at the prison in 2014, and Ricky Martin, who was beaten, stabbed and stomped on by a fellow inmate despite pleas by him and other inmates to stop the killer, who had vowed earlier in the day to kill Martin because he was white.