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Help is on the way for Florida prisons. Will it be enough?

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Lawmakers visit Lake Co. prison after ‘inmate beating’ viral video

“This is happening throughout the state of Florida”

Otis Miller, a Florida inmate, was beaten by officers, the act, caught on camera. This week, Florida’s Democratic legislative leaders respond.

Miller made headlines earlier this month after a video went viral on YouTube from inside Lake Correctional Institute near Clermont in Lake County. 

The video, which was filmed by another inmate with a contraband cell phone, showed Miller being held on the ground outside, surrounded by officers. A few of them were beating him repeatedly over minutes.

The inmate filming made comments suggesting that he had been witnessing the beating for five minutes or longer and that he thought the officers could kill Miller.

Miller survived the attack and was transferred to another prison, according to the Florida Department of Corrections. To date, three officers have been arrested in connection with the crime of malicious battery, including Capt. Milton Gass.

On Saturday, Democratic Reps. Susan Valdes, of Tampa, Dianne Hart, of Tampa, and Anika Omphroy, of Sunrise, responded by embarking on a 5-hour visit to the facility.

The Representatives met with the prison officials at Lake Correctional and via phone, including the Warden, Assistant Warden, Inspector General, Director of Prisons and Secretary Mark Inch.

Hart said of the visit:

“After seeing the video, I knew I had to act, so I and the other representatives drove to Lake Correctional and requested to see Mr. Miller … This is happening throughout the state of Florida and this upcoming legislative session I plan on sponsoring meaningful prison reform legislation.”

Hart has been on 26 prison visits, according to a news release. 

The incarceration rate in Florida is 720 people per every 100,000, per the Florida Policy Institute, and that’s higher than the national average. 

The non-profit organization also suggests high incarceration rates produce a number of negative effects for Florida constituents. 

These include an increased chance of poverty among families where the breadwinner is incarcerated, limited educational opportunities for those families, limited career opportunities for incarcerated individuals and a budgetary strain on the state, as a whole.

In June, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a large criminal justice reform package that included raising minimum limits for felony theft, among other reforms. 

However, critics of HB 7125 believe greater reform is needed to fix systemic problems in the Florida justice system that impact people like Miller every day.

Written By

Melissa S. Razdrih is a Tampa correspondent for Florida Politics. Razdrih graduated with a Bachelor's degree from the University of Tampa in 2006 and went on to earn a Master's degree before switching gears to write professionally. Since then, Razdrih has been published in national blogs, like PopSugar, and local publications, like Tampa Bay Business and Wealth, on everything from self-care to cryptocurrency, but politics is her passion. Contact her at melissarazdrih@me.com.

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