Shocking allegations of inmates being denied personal hygiene items such as toilet paper, soap and toothbrushes are emerging from a Florida legislator’s visits to some correctional facilities in the Sunshine State.
State Representative David Richardson (D-Miami Beach) began his tour by visiting the Baker Correctional Institution in Northern Florida in January. There, he found inmates without toilet paper and toothbrushes, so he requested the warden to open a storage unit only feet away to distribute hygiene products to more than 50 inmates.
“It is behavior that is intended to dehumanize them, treating them like an animal,” he told the Miami Herald.
The warden at Baker was “embarrassed,” Richardson said.
The representative then complained to the Florida Department of Corrections. After the complaint, officials “were apologetic and put out an all-points bulletin that this was wrong,” according to ABC News.
But the Baker facility isn’t the only institution where Richardson found negligent behavior. The lawmaker also visited the Tomoka Correctional Institution, near Daytona Beach, for the fourth time Saturday. He found inmates without soap, water and toilet paper. One cell block contained rats and roaches as well, according to ABC News.
The lawmaker took notes during the trip to Tomoka last weekend and sent them to state prison officials Saturday.
“E1-219 no toilet paper, no pillow. Out of TP since 8am Friday,’’ he wrote. “E1-218, out of TP since last night… E1-210, no pillow case; roaches and rats a big problem in the cell block… E1-214, no pillow, no soap,” Richardson’s notes, forwarded to the Miami Herald, detailing 37 cells read.
Allegedly, even life saving items were not dispensed to the inmates. Richardson discovered a prisoner who had been deprived of his inhaler for a month.
Another had an “open, weeping wound” that went untreated for days and several cells did not have air conditioning while many windows did not open for proper ventilation. Afterwards, the lawmaker ordered immediate medical treatment for the affected prisoners.
In an emailed note to the legislative affairs director at the Florida Department of Corrections, Richardson did not hold back in his criticism of the prison, saying, “This was the worst situation I have witnessed since that infamous Friday night at Baker many months ago.”
“Apparently, your staff still do not understand it is inhumane to deny inmates with basic personal hygiene products, especially toilet paper,” according to the Miami Herald.
Richardson found out that the agency has a policy of only one roll of toilet paper for every 10 days. This is compared to two rolls a week at private prisons.
“Despite months of complaints to headquarters, they haven’t changed their behavior,” he told the Herald, “we haven’t seen improvement.”
In another shocking revelation, Richardson claimed that the inmates have to substitute toilet paper for dampened notebook paper and newspaper, or even torn bedsheets and socks. Richardson says he knows because he had asked them.
An agency spokesperson, Michelle Glady, responded to the allegations aby saying that “the department does not withhold hygiene products from inmates and works continually to ensure all health, safety and hygiene standards are being met within our 149 facilities.”
The agency then welcomed feedback from the representative and other lawmakers “as we work together to ensure our facilities are operating transparently and the safety of our staff and inmates,” she said.