Prison Letter
July 2000

We received the following letter from a prisoner in Florida dated May 2 in response to an informal questionnaire we sent to our subscribers who are incarcerated:

The visitation system works totally in favor of the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC). FDOC is constantly transferring inmates to far away institutions many hours away from their families. For those who do receive visits, they (inmate & visitor) are subjected to outrageous food prices. All DOC prisons have gone from service canteen to self-service vending machines. Furthermore, the prices hurt the inmates' families. Also, FDOC has removed picture taking from its prisons. Families used to be able to take several pictures with their incarcerated loved one whenever the two sides meet.

Education varies from institution to institution. For example, Tomoka C.I. has one administrator and approximately twenty-five inmate teachers who actually run the school, saving FDOC hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Whereas, another institution will have four to five free world teachers (with inmate aides who only tutor) that 'wastes' a few hundred thousand dollars a year. There are no college programs for the poor. Moreover, there are not enough vocational programs to help even twenty percent of the population of FDOC. Soon PRIDE industries will own more than they own now. PRIDE is a private corporation which pays inmates much, much less than those who run free world sweatshops pay.

The health issue is a joke. We now must pay four dollars for medical (sick-call) visits. Many inmates refuse to go when sick, because the doctors are brainwashed by the state (FDOC) to care more for the institution's budget than for the inmate. The Hippocratic oath is unheard of.

Other issues: Most guards don't like their jobs; however, FDOC is the nearest place to work with benefits. Therefore, they come in looking for a fight, so they can write a Disciplinary Report (DR). Then the inmate can lose gain-time (15-180 days or more), time which must be done before going home. I've heard staff at a few institutions say "job security" in reference to taking an inmate's gain-time. Classification officers could care less about helping an inmate not repeat in the system. When one inmate does something wrong, the general policy of FDOC is to punish all inmates either collectively or at institution level(s).

FDOC through the media has the public fooled. It's not like a resort in prison, it's like triple jeopardy. The judge's sentence takes away an inmate's freedom. Then he or she is subjected to harsh treatment at the hands of FDOC. Then we're kicked out with a hundred dollars. FDOC knows ninety-five out of a hundred will return.

There should be a federal investigation (not state--I wonder why?) into FDOC's policies and/or procedures. This is big industry--prisons in Florida. How far do individuals go to keep their business operating?

At many institutions a man is treated less than a dog.

Also, [phone costs] it costs my family $4.05 for first minute and $0.55 each additional minute plus a 8.2% federal tax-each 10 minute call. Quite a few phone companies have found another way to rip off its customer.

FDOC made approximately $29,000,000 in two years (97-98). That's not counting what the phone companies made. Yes, just in FDOC. Then your other companies have a piece of the action as well.

Yours truly, Bernard

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