The 284 women housed in C-dorm at Florida’s Gadsden Correctional Facility lived for months without hot water or heat, faced flooded bathrooms daily and were put on water rations when the septic tanks were jammed with food waste, the Miami Herald reports. After state Rep. David Richardson demanded action after surprise visits over the past 18 months, the private prison’s operator, Utah-based Management Training Corp., received approval from the state to repair and replace the water heater, at a cost to taxpayers of nearly $10,000. Warden Shelly Sonberg never authorized the work. Richardson announced another inspection this month, this time with Chad Poppell, head agency that oversees private prisons, and two other state legislators.
In the two days before they arrived, four work crews descended on the prison and made many of the repairs. The state’s chief inspector general, Melinda Miguel, dispatched inspectors to assess the safety and welfare of the inmates. For Richardson, who has been on a one-man mission to force change in Florida’s troubled prison system, it’s another frustrating example of the failure of the state to monitor and hold accountable its prison operators. “I’m a policymaker. I’m not a monitor. I’m not their auditor. Why is it that I’m out there fixing water heaters?” he said. Poppell has removed the state-paid official in charge of monitoring the prison and has launched his own investigation. He said the 22-year-old prison, like other private prisons built by the state, are “now beginning to show their age and present problems associated with older buildings.”