It was lunchtime and the newly arrived teenage inmates had just filed into the mess hall at Florida’s Sumter Correctional Institution, sat down with their lunch trays and begun eating. Some of them started talking, like the inmates who’d been there longer were doing at nearby tables, reports the Tampa Bay Times. Their supervising officer considered the newbies disruptive. He warned them. They continued. Within minutes, the officer ordered the nearly 15 inmates to stand up and dump their lunch trays in the trash. He then ordered them back into their dorm.
That’s where state Rep. David Richardson found them. Richardson was on one of his routine visits to the state’s largest male youthful offender programs. Richardson randomly selected six of the 14- to 17-year-olds to speak with him and, one by one, started asking questions when he was told about the food dump. Depriving inmates of food is against the law in Florida’s prisons, but it rarely gets reported. Richardson complained and the state corrections department removed the officer from contact with the inmates who had been in prison less than three weeks. The inmates were supplied with another tray of food. “All officers on duty were counseled that withholding food can never be utilized as a form of discipline and that the department and facility will not condone it,” said an agency spokeswoman.