As if being thrown into solitary confinement under a sentence of death was not enough to psychologically break even the strongest of men, there are those who want to make us as miserable as possible. Like schoolyard bullies that thrive off of preying upon those they see as weak and defenseless, some warden’s do the same thing.
Last month Warden Dean Ellis and his assistant warden Brad Whitehead took over Florida State Prison – apparently FDOC secretary Kenneth Tucker decided that former FSP Warden Steven Singer was too weak. Both Ellis and Whitehead had previously risen up the ranks at FSP and are “old school”, believing that physical violence against prisoners is the only way to effectively manage prison. Both worked under former FDOC secretary James Crosby (who is still in Federal prison after being convicted of corruption) back when under Crosby prisoners at FSP were systematically assaulted and even brutally beaten to death, as is graphically documented by the Federal Courts in Frank Valdez v. James Crosby, 450 F.3d 1231 (11th Cir. 2000, as well as in my own book “To Live and Die on Death Row” by Michael Lambrix)
The first thing Warden Ellis did when taking over FSP last month was order boxes of extremely concentrated chemical agents (“pepper spray” or “gas”) intended to be used on prisoners – and he wasted no time using them. Under the pretense of compelling prisoners to have their cells “in compliance” Warden Ellis hand-picked groups of guards to go from cell to cell and upon any resistance they were instructed to use physical force. This is one of the oldest tricks in the books - by creating the pretense of the prisoner being “disorderly” they can justify the use of physical force.
Assistant Warden Whitehead holds special malice towards death row, and it was no surprise that Whitehead spent several days after coming to FSP tp go cell to cell, knit-picking the most frivolous details so that virtually every death row prisoner was found to be in “non-compliance”. Whitehead has an agenda – it’s not enough to throw a condemned man in a solitary cell for years, he wants those on death row to suffer and be miserable to inflict as much misery as possible .
It came as no surprise then when the following day Whitehead issued a document entitled “Florida State Prison Death Row Housing Unit Instructions” to every death row prisoner in FSP. (see content of this document below) In this document Whitehead has created 24 “rules” that must be meticulously complied with – any violations will result in “disciplinary action”.
Collectively these rules are intended to accomplish only one thing: to serve as a pretense of finding any death row prisoner in “non-compliance” so that Whitehead can justify taking away the very few privileges death sentenced prisoners have, like visitation and canteen privileges and use physical force against those sentenced to death.
You can email the Secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections and ask about these new rules and request copies of all incident reports and/or use of force reports, as in Florida every state agency is subject to disclosing public records.
Florida State Prison Death Row Housing Unit Instructions
In addition to Florida Administrative Code (FAC) Chapter 33 and FDC Procedures you will be expected to comply with these instructions. Failure to comply may result in the loss/suspension of privileges and/or disciplinary action. Your acknowledgement and compliance with these instructions will be an indication of positive adjustment and a benefit to you. Should you have any questions: contact a staff member within your unit for clarification. FAC Chapter 33 and FDC Procedures are available for checkout in each unit. Items checked out must be returned on the same shift as issued. Inmates will be responsible for lost or damaged items they have checked out.
1) Inmates will follow all orders given by an employee at any given time.
2) Inmates are to conduct themselves in a quiet and orderly manner at all times. There will be no yelling or loud talking from cell to cell, out of windows to inmates or staff. Additionally there will be no talking during counts of after lights out. Inmates are not permitted to yell to staff members to gain their attention unless there is true emergency.
3) Inmates are not permitted to talk or in any way attempt to communicate with other inmates while being escorted outside of their cells. This includes, but not limited to – showers/haircut, recreation, hearings, callouts/appointments and work/education assignments.
4) Inmates are not permitted to communicate or attempt to communicate to anyone outside of the housing unit to include those times when inmates are escorted outside the unit to participate in outdoor recreation, work details or call-outs/appointments. Any form of unauthorized communication to others (staff, visitors, or inmates) outside the unit in any manner is strictly prohibited.
5) You are required to wear a Class B uniform from 8:00am – 5:00pm Monday to Friday. The class B uniform consists of a tee shirt, blue pants or personal shorts (if you currently possess them). Anytime an inmate departs their cell they are to be dressed in Class A uniform, including approved footwear, unless directed otherwise by staff.
6) Bunks will be made each morning at 8:00am, excluding weekends and holidays, with a 6 (six) inch white collar and will remain in this fashion until 5:00pm. Anytime an inmate departs his/her cell on weekends or holidays the bunk will be made before departing the cell.
7) Inmates are to remain quiet when ant staff member enters the wing. When a staff member passes by your cell, you may address staff at that time.
8) Inmates are not permitted to stand on toilets, bunks or sinks.
9) Mattresses, sheets, blankets, pillows/pillow cases and towels will not be placed on the floor at any time.
10) Inmates will perform scheduled cleaning of their cells as directed by staff and will be responsible for keeping cells clean and orderly at all times. Inmates will not write on, or in any manner deface cell walls, windows, floors, ceilings, doors/bars or any fixtures. No items are to be attached or affixed to any area within the cells. Towels and washcloths may be hung to dry on the wall hooks, provided for that purpose in each cell.
11) Inmates are not permitted to throw any trash out of their cells. Trash will be collected during scheduled cell cleaning and after the completion of each meal.
12) All state property will be returned in the same condition as when issued.
13) Inmates are not to pass any item from cell to cell or to any other inmate to include personal/or state property. The manufacture, possession or use of a rope or “fishing line” is prohibited.
14) All property will be stored in your locker or other approved storage location.
All personal property in excess of what can be kept in the locker must be disposed of according to proper regulations.
15) All inmates are to come to the cell door and receive their food tray at meal times. The trays are to remain inside the cell until collected at the completion of each meal. Food items or trays will not be passed between cells. No food items, food trays, utensils, containers or condiments (except those items purchased from the canteen) will be stored in the cells at any time. Any issue with the meal being served will be addressed to the officer supervising the feeding of the meal and not inmate orderlies.
16) Death Row inmates will be allowed to possess and use “smokeless tobacco” products. They will not be allowed to possess any other type of tobacco.
17) All inmates are required to comply with Chapter 33-602-101, FAC to include maintaining hair and fingernails as outlined. Inmates will also shower and shave three times a week (unless exempt by medical pass) Showers are limited to ten (10) minutes maximum. Clippers will be used for shaving.
18) Inmates will proceed directly to the showers from their cells and return directly to their cell upon completion unless directed otherwise. You are permitted to take the following items to the shower: clean clothing, shower slides, towel, washcloth, and hygiene products.
19) Issuance and exchange of health and comfort items will be on a predetermined schedule within each unit.
20) You are not permitted to take anything (i.e. towels, books, papers, canteen items, etc) to the outdoor recreation yards. Inmates are permitted to talk to other inmates in the outdoor recreation areas if conversation can be conducted without loud talking or yelling. Inmates participating in outdoor recreation are not permitted to talk to inmates inside the housing unit or areas outside of the recreation area. Inmates will be permitted to remove outer shirt once inside the recreation yard, but t-shirts must be worn. Shorts may be worn while on the recreation yards.
21) Inmates are required to respond to health care staff during daily rounds, sick call, and weekly mental health rounds. Prior to health care staff entering the individual housing unit an officer will announce “Health care staff is now conducting rounds” If these rounds are after 5:00pm inmates will dress in at least Class “B” uniform until health care staff departs the housing unit.
22) Inmates with medical, mental health or dental non-emergencies will notify medical staff while making daily rounds; mental health staff during weekly rounds or submit an “inmate request” DC6-236. Over the counter medication may be requested from Close Management staff as needed.
23) Cells will be inspected for damage prior to your placement. Any noted deficiency will be listed on the “Cell Inspection” DC6-221 form and you will sign the form acknowledging your agreement with the inspection. Inmates will be held accountable for any deficiencies not previously noted on the DC6-221 during routine inspections or upon release.
24) In the event it becomes necessary to evacuate the housing unit inmates will follow all directions issued by staff and move from their assigned cells to the pre-designated assembly area in a quiet and orderly manner. Inmates will not attempt to retrieve any personal property prior to departure unless directed by staff.