Michael Holley, author of “Pinstripe Suits to Prison Blues,” will share his story of the rise and fall of his auto sales empire at Southeastern University on Monday.

Holley, a former owner of local car dealerships, will also discuss his journey through the criminal justice system that ended in a 20-month prison term.

Holley will speak at 1 p.m. in Room A115 on the Southeastern campus. A brief discussion will follow with guest speakers Lyle Bowlin, a finance professor; Linda Bowlin, a criminal justice professor; Timothy Welch, a legal studies professor; and Bill Mutz, a Southeastern board member.

The event is free and open to the public. Audience questions will be taken. For more information, call 863-667-5402.

Six whistleblowers are suing the Florida Department of Corrections over a “gag order” issued by Secretary Julie Jones that they say violates state and federal law.

The legal challenge was filed Tuesday, one day before Jones told a Florida House panel the directive was necessary to shut down gossip and protect investigators.

Last week, Jones issued a staff “confidentiality agreement” barring inspectors from disclosing information about investigations to anyone except “those who have a need to know and only in connection with the official business of the Office of the Inspector General.” Violation of the policy could result in immediate firing.

The lawsuit was filed by six investigators who work for the agency’s inspector general, an official who answers to Gov. Rick Scott’s inspector general, Melinda Miguel. Miguel refused to grant four of the investigators whistleblower status last year, which prompted them to file a separate legal challenge claiming they were being retaliated against after exposing cover-ups involving the death of an inmate at a Panhandle prison.

On Wednesday, Jones defended her directive after being questioned about it during an appearance before the House Judiciary Committee.

Jones said she met with Department of Corrections Inspector General Jeffery Beasley in December prior to taking over her post and asked him if he had whistleblower complaints and if the whistleblowers claimed they were being retaliated against. His answer to both questions was yes, she said. She also said Beasley told her he did not have confidentiality agreements with the inspectors.

Jones, a veteran law-enforcement officer who previously headed the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and came out of retirement at Scott’s behest to take over the embattled corrections agency last month, said that such agreements are the norm in other agencies. The ban on disclosing information about investigations helps protect inspectors who may be pressured by more senior staff, she indicated.

“You have an inspector that has no specific rank is investigating presumed wrongdoing inside the institution. Someone of rank walks up and asks, ‘So what are you doing? What’s going on? Who are you investigating?’ And that individual needs to go look back and rely on a confidentiality agreement to say, ‘I can’t talk to you about that’ and feel real good about it,” she said. “Even in situations that are unfounded, you don’t want gossip. You don’t want water-cooler talk. You don’t want anyone talking, ‘I investigated so-and-so. Guess what they were accused of doing.’ It’s not professional … .”

But she conceded at least one misstep regarding the issuance of the directive, which came just two days after a Senate panel grilled Beasley.

“The timing was terrible. I just decided it’s just time to rip the Band-aid off and go forward. It was not intended as a gag order. It does not keep those investigators from collaborating on information,” Jones told the House panel on Wednesday, adding that the agreement also does not prohibit investigators from speaking to lawmakers. “So it was more or less, I think a good housekeeping piece toward how do you guarantee someone’s safety and their integrity when they come forward with concerns and keep that information confidential.”

In the lawsuit filed Tuesday, the inspectors’ lawyer, Steven Andrews, argued that Jones exceeded her authority by requiring the confidentiality agreement because Florida law requires that inspectors general offices be independent of agency oversight or control.

Andrews in the lawsuit also accused Jones of, among other things, misusing her position by trying to keep the inspectors from exposing wrongdoing at Florida prisons. One of the inspectors in the lawsuit described the directive as a “virtual gag order.”

“It is clear that the Staff Member Confidentiality Agreement was enacted to confer a special benefit or privilege on Inspector General’s such that they are prohibited from reporting misconduct outside of the agency including staffing of institutions below critical needs standards and ongoing prisoner abuse,” Andrews wrote.

“Inside My Head” by Co-Dean

Posted: March 4, 2015 in Poems

I can’t sleep at night, Paranoid from my past life.

Knowing everything happened because I wouldn’t act right.

It haunts me till this day, man I want out of this fast life.

Dreaming about a gavel falling. Giving me life with some graphite.

Damn, my Demons pressure these bad thoughts.

Thinking about nights when I was hunting folks but laughing my ass off.

Now thinking about the years of tears and pain I’ve caused

Realizing now the reason for all the things I’ve lost.

It used to not make sense, why all this bad luck,

If they knew half of all I’ve done, they’d cover my ass up.

Plus I’ve made the mistake of looking at different religions,

Confused, now I see the same but a lot of its different.

Who am I to say who’s wrong and who’s right?

Like is it Mohammad or is it Jesus Christ.

Mixed emotions about a lot but there’s no way I’m gay

The worlds got to be crazy to think that’s ok.

Is it real or is it Fake? Is is something to go on,

Can we depend on man? Shit I don’t know haven’t I

got to try something because I’m driving myself crazy,

And that’s the only good I know so maybe.


By Co-Dean

Freed Speech

After 17 years in prison, a murderer–turned–newspaper-editor faces new challenges.

by George Howland Jr.

Consider Paul Wright’s life by the numbers: 38 years old; 17 years in prison for murder; 15 years (all while in prison) as editor of Prison Legal News—currently the only nationally distributed prisoners’ rights journal; co-author/editor of two books, The Celling of America and the award-winning Prison Nation; 14 court victories against prison systems around the country, all affirming the First Amendment rights of prisoners, plus so many injunctions and consent decrees that he can’t recall them all; 11 years of marriage (all while in prison); two children (conceived during the state’s Department of Corrections family visit program); 43 days since he was released from the Washington State Reformatory in Monroe.

So what’s it like being out after 17 years? “Pretty much the only thing that surprised me is that things are really expensive,” he says. “When I go shopping, I have to be with someone I trust so I can ask, ‘Is this a real price? Or is this just a tourist price or something?’”
On his first night out, Tara Herivel, his friend and co-author of Prison Nation, took him to her favorite restaurant, Malay Satay Hut. (Wright’s wife could not be present because she had moved to the East Coast. Wright has since joined her and their children.) Next, Herivel took him on a walk down Broadway, expecting that the crazy scene would awe him. It did not. “Paul is unflappable,” she says. One thing, however, did stop him in his tracks: the produce in the window at Safeway. He just stared and stared, saying, “What a trip,” Herivel recalls.

The American Friends Service Committee’s Bonnie Kerness, a 30-year veteran of the human rights movement and a friend of Wright’s, has been counseling ex-prisoners for many years. She says that despite Wright’s stoicism, the transition to the outside world is incredibly difficult for any ex-con. She says many of the people she has worked with have difficulty with all the stimulation and decisions that are part of everyday life after prison. At the same time, the elation accompanied by release can make people almost manic. All this means it is very hard to be around family and friends. She thinks, however, that Wright’s achievements while in prison will serve him well in civilian life. “He had a vision, and he carried that vision forward. People who have a dream—that forces them to live outside themselves in a healthy manner. That will stand him in good stead, no matter what problems he encounters.”

The first thing Wright hopes to do in order to build his dream is increase the revenue of Prison Legal News by selling more advertising and attracting grants. Ads now account for only around 8 percent of the newspaper’s $150,000 annual income. Unless the revenue increases, he admits, the newspaper cannot really support the decision to have him join a paid staff, bringing its number to four.

Wright was 21 and a private in the Army in 1987 when he killed a man he says was a drug dealer, during a robbery attempt in Federal Way. He pleaded self-defense but was convicted of murder and sent to prison. In 1989, Wright started the paper with another prisoner, Ed Mead, a former member of the George Jackson Brigade, Washington’s version of the radical Weather Underground. The two men shared a revolutionary Marxist perspective and a desire to put out a newspaper that did muckraking reporting on prison conditions and provided legal advice for inmates. The paper started as 10 photocopied pages distributed by hand and has grown to a 40-page monthly with 3,600 subscribers throughout the U.S. and many other countries. Over the years, Prison Legal News has broken a variety of stories picked up by newspapers around the nation. Wright has also been an important tipster for reporters and editors, including me. He considers his biggest journalistic achievement to be jump-starting the policy debate over prison labor. He has exposed the use of prisoners by contractors for Microsoft, Starbucks, Boeing, and former U.S. Rep. Jack Metcalf, among others.

He is also buoyed by the success of his legal fight to promote prisoners’ First Amendment rights around the country. Most of the cases involved battles against prison systems that refused to allow inmates to receive Prison Legal News. Seattle attorney Mickey Gendler has handled a lot of First Amendment cases for the newspaper over the years. “Our government has always tried to restrict the rights of people whose rights are easiest to restrict—poor people, recent immigrants, prisoners. It’s important to draw the lines early, because the erosions spread.” Prison Legal News has only lost one case out of 15 that have gone to trial, says Wright—a case that concerned reprinting a story about neo-Nazi guards that originally ran in Seattle Weekly after a tip from Wright. (Prison Legal News and Seattle Weekly were co-plaintiffs in the case.)

Prison Legal News’ biggest challenge in recent years has been internal. In February 2001, Wright called the police, accusing the paper’s business manager, Fred Markham, of stealing more $19,000. Last year, Markham entered an Alford plea—no admission of guilt but acknowledging the likelihood of conviction—to first-degree theft.
The newspaper’s co-founder, Mead, and Dan Pens, the co-editor at the time, strongly disagreed on principle with Wright’s decision to involve the authorities. “I told Paul, ‘If you rat on Fred, I’ll never speak to you again,’” says Mead. An unapologetic Wright says, “We had a fiduciary duty to our readers and supporters.”

After Wright called the police, Pens resigned and made a variety of accusations against his former partner, ranging from ideological errors to criminal behavior. Wright denies them all. Wright and his board have hired a new executive director and instituted strict financial safeguards. The paper weathered the crisis and only missed one issue. “In all respects, we are a lot stronger now,” say Wright.

Wright will need that strength if for nothing else to care for his two young sons, aged 6 and 4. He asked the 4-year-old if the boy liked having him around all the time now. His son said he preferred visiting his father in a trailer on the grounds of Monroe’s Reformatory because they got to play all day long. Now he must share his father with all the distractions of the outside world. “I wonder where they get all the energy,” says Wright, laughing. “My wife’s theory is that they take it from their parents.”

The assistant warden at a North Florida women’s prison has been fired after allegations that he had inappropriate relationships with some of the inmates and threatened members of his staff.

Marty Martinez was fired last week from Lowell Correctional Institution, the Florida Department of Corrections reported. He is among 44 prison staff members who have been dismissed since new DOC Secretary Julie Jones took over the agency Jan. 5.

Inmates say they can’t get medical service for basic or serious conditions

Published: Friday, January 23, 2015 at 10:02 p.m.

THE FLORIDA STATE PRISON is backlit at sunset in Raiford. Lawyers who represented prisoners in the mid-1970s said conditions might be worse today than they were when attorneys for Michael Costello, an inmate at Florida State Prison, convinced a federal judge that inadequate health care amounted to a violation of Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

TALLAHASSEE | For more than 20 years, the state of Florida and lawyers representing prisoners wrangled over inmates’ health care, resulting in nearly a decade of federal-court oversight of health services in the Department of Corrections.

Now, lawyers who represented prisoners in the mid-1970s said conditions might be worse today than they were when attorneys for Michael Costello, an inmate at Florida State Prison, convinced a federal judge that inadequate health care amounted to a violation of Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

“It’s going backwards, backwards, backwards,” said Jacksonville lawyer William Sheppard, one of the lawyers in the landmark Costello v. Wainwright lawsuit. Sheppard played an integral role in the settlement of the case, which included a court-appointed special master and monitor to ensure that prisoners received the health care they needed.

“It was the number of people that were dying, and that really caused the federal court to appoint the special master back in the 1980s who worked for 10 years to enforce the order,” Sheppard said. “It’s not going to get better. It’s going to get a lot worse. And when it gets to the breaking point, there are going to be lawsuits. It’s as simple as that.”

Less than two years ago, private companies took over health care for the state’s 100,000 inmates. But newly appointed Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones is now threatening to cancel the companies’ contracts, renegotiate or put them out to bid again.

“The department has maintained a clear message that the care of inmates is the number one priority in the provision of health care services. I have personally met with our health care contractors to express my expectations of excellence in quality care. I will continue to take steps to ensure that the department’s expectations are met and that all parties are held to the highest standards of transparency and accountability. Anything short of timely, effective and appropriate health care will not be tolerated,” Jones, who took over as secretary less than three weeks ago, told The News Service of Florida on Wednesday.

Jones, appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to take over the agency in the aftermath of reports of questionable inmate deaths and brutality by prison guards, told the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Tuesday that she is in discussions with Corizon Health and Wexford Health Services about possibly terminating the contracts, which would require 60 days’ notice from the agency or 120 days’ notice from the companies.

Corizon is being paid $1.2 billion over five years to provide health care to more than 74,000 prisoners in North and Central Florida, as well as part of South Florida. Wexford will receive $240 million over the same period for health care for about 15,000 inmates at nine South Florida facilities.

Jones also accused the companies of failing to live up to the agreements and of putting inmates at risk by providing inadequate health care.

“Wexford Health appreciates and shares Secretary Jones’ concerns about the level of prison health services being offered. However, we are confident the overwhelming majority of those concerns do not apply to the 15,000 inmates under our care in South Florida,” Don Hulick, director of operations for Wexford Health Care in Florida, said in a statement.

Jones’ threats came just months after the two companies were promised extra money in exchange for agreeing not to walk away from the contracts.

On July 29 — less than four months before Scott, who pushed for the privatization, was re-elected — former Department of Corrections Secretary Michael Crews quietly agreed to pay the companies another $3.2 million to stay on the job for another year.

In the amendments signed by Crews in late July, the state agreed to pay Corizon an additional $2.9 million and Wexford an extra $300,000. Both companies complained that they had not received medical cost-of-living increases — about 3 percent — which were contingent on authorization by the Legislature, which did not approve the hikes. Crews used money set aside by the Legislature in the budget for growth in the prison population to underwrite the contract amendments.

Two months after he inked the contract amendments, Crews threatened to stop payments to Corizon, saying the Missouri-based company failed to follow through after audits revealed shortcomings in multiple areas, including medical care, nursing and staffing.

“We consider it our mission to care for patients as we would our own family — with integrity and respect — and to deliver the very best treatment possible despite often challenging circumstances. We take this responsibility seriously and remain steadfast in our commitment to creating and strengthening a culture of patient safety. We share Secretary Jones’ commitment to patient care and look forward to working with her and her team in this endeavor,” Corizon spokeswoman Susan Morgenstern said in an email.

Jones’ scrutiny of the contracts came in tandem with her push for more oversight of prison health care. Right now, Jones and lawmakers rely on the Correctional Medical Authority to audit the companies, which are then responsible for fixing their own shortcomings. The Correctional Medical Authority doesn’t have the ability to impose fines or other punitive measures on the vendors.

The Correctional Medical Authority was created in 1986 as part of the settlement in the Costello case. The state’s prison health system stayed under federal oversight until 1993, when a judge decided that the federal government could relinquish its role as long as Florida remained committed to using monitors like the authority to ensure that prisoners’ rights were not being violated.

In the midst of deciding to privatize prison health care in 2011, lawmakers shuttered the agency by eliminating its $717,000 budget. That same year, Scott vetoed a measure that would have done away with the authority, calling it a “valuable layer of oversight.” The next year, House and Senate leaders allocated $580,000 to revive the agency, shrunk from 12 workers to six with an oversight board of seven governor-appointed members.

But critics of the revived authority say the agency no longer has the power it held when U.S. District Judge Susan Black agreed to end federal oversight.

Sheppard said his office receives requests for assistance almost daily from inmates who say they are unable to get medical services ranging from treatment for chronic illnesses like multiple sclerosis to more run-of-the-mill conditions like hernias.

The complaints echo those he fielded three decades ago at the height of the Costello litigation, Sheppard said.

Skeletons of Society by Slayer

Posted: February 16, 2015 in Music