Three years after Florida’s Dade Correctional Institution was thrust into the national spotlight for the death of an inmate locked in a boiling shower in its mental health unit, deaths at the prison have soared to unprecedented heights, the Miami Herald reports. Last year, 13 inmates died at Dade Correctional, including four from hanging. That’s twice as many deaths as all but one other state prison. Three of those who apparently killed themselves were 30 or younger, two of them men with mental illnesses. Another inmate was killed by his cellmate and seven died of various medical ailments.
They are among 366 prisoners who died in Florida state prisons in 2016 — the highest number in the history of the Florida Department of Corrections. Most of those deaths remain under investigation. Florida’s prison system, with nearly 99,000 inmates, is the nation’s third-largest. Last year, it was far deadlier than Texas, another notoriously tough system, which had 146,684 inmates and 407 deaths. That translates to 47 percent more inmates than Florida but just 11 percent more deaths. Julie Jones, secretary for the Florida Department of Corrections, attributed Florida’s rising death toll to the aging prison population, and to the spread of gangs, which has led to an increase in inmate-on-inmate killings. “We have a lot of violence right now and it has to do with the level of supervision and the gang population. What is scary, too, is the volume of inmate-on-inmate assaults, which increased 70 percent in the last six years,’’ Jones said.