MIAMI: More than a dozen human rights and religious groups urged Washington on Thursday to investigate “terribly inhumane conditions” in Florida prisons, citing suspicious deaths.
The 14 organizations, including the local branches of the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International and the Southern Poverty Law Center, sent a letter to the US Department of Justice demanding an investigation.
They listed prisoners whom they alleged had died of torture, excessive force or lack of food or medical care within the “horribly brutal conditions in the prisons of the state of Florida.”
During 2014, they said, 346 inmate deaths were recorded in Florida prisons, 13 percent more than in the previous year.
Of those, 176 deaths lacked an immediate explanation and investigations by the Florida Department of Corrections have failed to bring clarity, the groups said.
“Given the Florida Department of Correction’s pattern and practice of consistently failing to remedy these pervasive and egregious problems, only the Department of Justice can properly address these violations (of constitutional standards),” they added.
In response, Florida corrections said it was “committed to ensuring the safety of Florida’s convicted offenders.”
“Many of the issues raised by the ACLU are the subject of past or present criminal and administrative investigations which involve multiple local, state and federal law enforcement agencies,” the agency said, noting it hoped “ongoing reforms” would “continue to move our agency in a positive direction.”
Florida’s prison population, the third-largest in the United States, was 100,873 in 56 prisons at the end of 2014, according to official figures.