Union County, Florida is the smallest county in Florida, and third poorest county in the United States per 2017 data collected. It is a male dominated (10,045 men to 5,490 women) and 75% white community with not much diversity or economic strength.  It is also home to the Florida State Prison where 1,460 adult males are supervised.  The prison offers positive activities to rehabilitate inmates such as:

Academic programs that include: 1) basic education, 2) continued education, 3) GED classes, 4) career planning, 5) inmate teaching assistant programs, and special education services.

Chaplaincy services that include:  1) alcoholic anonymous programming, 2) library programs, 3) holy day observations, religious education including TV programs, 4) personal growth programs, 5) worship services, 6) volunteer programs and 7) visits from spiritual advisors.

Institutional programs: 1) anger and stress management, 2) smoking cessation, 3) law library program, 4) social skills, 5) weight training, 6) career and 7) wellness education.

There is no place on this list of activities for the abuse of prisoner rights.  Police brutality is an illegal and actionable offense to be remedied in the interests of victims, when misguided law officers overstep the boundaries of their “allowed use of force” in their roles as public servants who take an oath to protect and serve the communities where they work. This includes correctional officers who are in positions of authority over prisoners. The state has to give a certain amount of power to prison guards so that they can maintain the prison system with the main objective of keeping the inmates safe, but there are some correctional officers who abuse this power and assault inmates. Inmate abuse occurs when prison officials use unnecessary and excessive force or commit sexual assault upon the prisoner. The two types of assaults on prisoners can be violent assault which is the more common, and sexual assault.

  1. Violent assault is committed by correctional officers through needless beating, hitting, kicking or striking of a prisoner. The officer’s unnecessary or excessive use of a weapon upon a defenseless inmate is a typical example. These attacks can cause lacerations, broken bones, internal injuries, disfigurement, brain or spinal cord damage and even death.
  2. The incidence of sexual assault from correctional officers is greater in detention centers than the public thinks, the National Inmate Survey reveals that 4.4 percent of prison and jail inmates report being sexually victimized in the past 12 months. Sexual abuse can occur verbally or through physical contact, although verbal sexual abuse is extremely difficult to prove rarely leading to recovery of damages. Sexual abuse can also result in severe physical injury.

Changing the Brutal Culture of Correctional Officers is Up to the Prisoners.

Although inmates know that officer misconduct is unlawful, they tolerate the assault as a simple fact of prison life.  Prisoners must remember they have some power in these situations as they can file a personal injury lawsuit to protect their rights and receive compensation for their damages while bringing to light the illegal activities of the guards and cause them to be punished in accordance with their behavior.  When an inmate, or former inmate, brings a lawsuit against for prison guard abuse, the court will make the ultimate determination on whether the guard was acting unlawfully. The court will base the facts of the case on the specific situation and particular facts that support the claim of abuse of power and excessive force.  The causes of action that can be taken in this type of lawsuit against the State include: 1) assault, 2) deprivation of civil rights, 3) negligent ownership, maintenance, supervision and security at prison, and 4) negligent hiring and retention of incompetent personnel.

Other Types of Police Brutality Include:

  • Excessive Force – utilizing more physical force than necessary to subdue a criminal causing bodily harm or death.
  • False Arrest and Wrongful Imprisonment – unlawful restraint of a person’s freedom of movement by another acting in perceived accordance with the law.
  • Wrongful Search and Seizure Activity – protection from “unreasonable searches and seizures” notwithstanding probable cause enabling a search warrant.
  • Racial and Gender Discrimination – bias-based policing is the intentional practice by an individual law enforcement officer who incorporates prejudicial judgments based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, religious beliefs, or age that are inappropriately applied in the performance of his/her duties.

Excessive force, bodily harm and death; as well as racial and gender discrimination have occurred at the prison in Union County per accounts over years, with follow up investigations leading to reform in the way the prison systems are run in the State of Florida.  Federal laws addressing police misconduct include criminal and civil statutes to cover officers’ action in State, county and local jurisdictions including prisons and jails.  The laws are to protect all people in the United States whether they are citizens or not.

The 2018 Florida Statutes Chapter 776 outlines the law on “Justifiable Use of Force” as it pertains to Police Officer activity in Section 776.05 whereby an officer is justified in the use of any force:

1) which he or she reasonably believes to be necessary to defend himself or herself or another from bodily harm while making the arrest;

2) when necessarily committed in retaking felons who have escaped; or

3) when necessarily committed in arresting felons fleeing from justice.

However, this subsection shall not constitute a defense in any civil action for damages brought for the wrongful use of deadly force unless the use of deadly force was necessary to prevent the arrest from being defeated by such flight and, when feasible, some warning had been given, and:

(a) The officer reasonably believes that the fleeing felon poses a threat of death or serious physical harm to the officer or others; or

(b) The officer reasonably believes that the fleeing felon has committed a crime involving the infliction or threatened infliction of serious physical harm to another person.

 Officer Considerations When Applying Force Include.

1. The type and severity of the incident or crime at issue,
2. The person posing an immediate threat to the officer or others,
3. The person’s physical resistance to an arrest or other lawful detention,
4. The person fleeing from an arrest or other lawful detention,
5. The size, age, relative strength, skill-level, and physical condition (including injury or exhaustion) of the person and the officer,
6. The officer’s level of training and experience,
7. The number of persons and/or number of officers on the scene,
8. The duration of the incident, specifically in relation to the physical resistance offered by the person,
9. The time available to an officer to decide to use response to resistance levels of control/force,
10. The person’s proximity or access to weapons,
11. Environmental factors and other exigent circumstances, and
12. The officer’s perceptions at the time the decision to use force was made.

If you, or someone you know, who has been incarcerated is suffering at the hands of a corrections officer, immediately contact a Civil Rights & Personal Injury legal professional who might be able to help you manage your damages.  Damages may include hospital/medical expenses; past and future permanent disability payments; emotional distress including depression and anxiety; loss of enjoyment of life; physical pain and suffering; and loss of love and companionship due to a death or serious injury caused by police brutality or excessive use of force.

Sources:

http://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2018/776.05

https://www.justice.gov/crt/addressing-police-misconduct-laws-enforced-department-justice

https://www.usconstitution.net/xconst_Am4.html