In Florida, 32 prison guards were fired over the death of prison inmates.  Through a critical response, analyze the basics of this incident. How could a situation like this be prevented in the...

In Florida, 32 prison guards were fired over the death of prison inmates.  Through a critical response, analyze the basics of this incident. How could a situation like this be prevented in the future?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The Florida prison guard abuse case raises some fundamental issues about the nature of prison reform in Florida and the nation.  Essentially, the actions of these prison guards were concealed from the public's view.  Different people within the institutional structure raised objection to what was happening to those in the position of power such as Florida Prison Inspector General Jeffery Beasley who told them that he would  “have their asses” if their inquiry continued.  The actions of Secretary Michael Crews in firing those involved in the "Friday Night Massacre" is one of the first public exposures to the ongoing abuses within the Florida prison system.

There are some distinct steps that can be taken to prevent a situation like this from happening in the future.  One particular step that can be taken is a psychological shift.  Prisons and the criminal justice system have to stop being seen as "that place."  The public perception of the criminal justice system is that more prisons need to be built to house "those people."  It is because the public is not taking an active interest in what is happening in our prisons that those in the position of power can perpetrate abuses without being questioned. The conditions that prisoners face in America must be be illuminated.  The media can play an active role in this process.  News organizations such as the Miami Herald have conducted investigations and reporting that has brought out "records involving the suspicious deaths of a variety of state inmates."  When public attention to an issue is absent, the media can play a vital role in awakening public consciousness.  Results can transpire when the media is able to calibrate public attention towards the plight of prisoners:  Since the Herald published its initial reports, the Miami-Dade Police Department has for the first time interviewed witnesses, and Dade Correctional’s warden and his top deputy have been ousted."  With public attention, legislators have to craft positions towards which they will be held accountable and it is in this regard where change can happen, preventing something like this from happening again in the future.

With public attention firmly engaged, this light will represent a new level of transparency within the prison system.  The code of silence that people like Inspector General Beasley enforced has to be eradicated.  Replacing this with a civilian review board, consisting of individuals who have legitimate recall and suspension power and are not immersed in the prison system hierarchy, is another step that can be taken to ensure that guards and other individuals are not allowed to escape legal sanction for the abuse and degradation of prisoners.  Such a review board can replace the current structure of the prison system where  they promoted the people most responsible and liable for the incident and fired everybody else down the chain.”   These would be steps that can be taken in order to prevent what happened in Florida.

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