Legislature again ignores bill to test body cameras at ‘notorious’ women’s prison
Yvonne Hinson led an failed charge to hold wrongdoers at a "notorious" women's prison in Ocala to higher standards. Image via Colin Hackley/Florida Politics.

It's the second time the GOP-controlled Legislature ignored legislation to better monitor of the prison.

Lawmakers have again sidestepped a proposal to bring additional accountability to a Florida women’s prison where a federal investigation revealed “notorious acts of sexual abuse, including rape, against prisoners.”

Twin bills (SB 108, HB 391) that would have required guards to wear body cameras while on duty at Lowell Correctional Institute in Ocala died without a hearing during the 2024 Legislative Session.

It marked the second time the GOP-controlled Legislature ignored legislation that would have allowed for better monitoring of the prison. In 2021, after U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigators released a damning report about the facility, Gainesville Democratic Rep. Yvonne Hinson and former Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo of Miami filed measures to address the issues.

This year, Miami Gardens Democratic Sen. Shevrin Jones joined Hinson in the cause.

The DOJ probe from 2018-2020 found Lowell repeatedly failed to prevent the rape and violent mistreatment of inmates, who remained at “substantial risk of serious harm because existing systems discourage prisoners from reporting, (detecting and effectively deterring) sexual abuse.”

Those findings came five years after a Miami Herald investigation called attention to problems at Lowell, Florida’s oldest and largest women’s penitentiary. It made mention of a 2019 incident in which a lieutenant at the prison “accused repeatedly of sexually abusing multiple prisoners” allegedly slammed inmate Cheryl Weimar to the concrete floor and kicked her, leaving her paralyzed with a broken neck.

“In August 2020, (the Florida Department of Corrections) settled a lawsuit related to the prisoner’s paralysis for $4.65 million,” the report said.

“As part of that case, a former prisoner who recently had been released from Lowell testified under oath that this lieutenant threatened ‘to put you under investigation and take your gain time’ if you did not ‘take care of him,’ which the prisoner understood to mean ‘oral or regular sex.’”

DOJ personnel wrote 22 times about how “inadequate” camera surveillance enabled the abusive guards and staff.

“We must be clear,” Hinson said in a statement at the time. “These women had their constitutional rights violated. My office will continue to apply pressure and ensure that these women are protected and are treated with dignity.”

Hinson and Jones’ bills would have created a three-year pilot program under which Lowell correctional officers would have to wear body cams. The Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) would have had to establish policies and procedures for the cameras’ “proper use, maintenance, and storage,” including the storage of recordings.

A report from the DOC would have been due June 30, 2025.

“With the rise in incidents in our jails,” Jones told Florida Politics in November, “it is only right that levels of accountability are put in place for the safety of those incarcerated and our correctional officers.”

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


  • ScienceBLVR

    March 3, 2024 at 5:02 pm

    Like the Bible says, good women are faithful and obedient, bad women either make history or go to jail. Still don’t give you good ole boys the right to rape ann abuse them. But again, only the Dems seem to care about women since there’s no support for this from the GOP?

  • Earl Pitts "Sage Political Expert Emeritas" American

    March 3, 2024 at 5:14 pm

    Good evening Florida,
    I, Earl Pitts American, warned all elected officials in the House and Senate, to ignore this at their major “Inconvienance”.
    Y’all know how you dont get “PAID EXTRA” to pack y”all’s $hit back up, come back to Tallahassee, and rent a Hotel Room at the DoubleTree or a simmilar Hotel when our Sage Govornor Ron “The Ronald” calls y’all’s trifilang @sses back to “Special Session”.
    Well “Knot-Heads” thats exactly whats gonna happen if you fail (in the waining days of Session) to properly fund the “Triffaling Amount Required” to provide these ladies the cameras needed to insure their safety.

  • Earl Pitts "Sage Political Expert Emeritas" American

    March 3, 2024 at 5:48 pm

    And Further More:
    A certian Incredably Beauty Wife of a highly placed Florida Elected Offical
    (With the ability to call you House And Senate members back into The Dreaded Special Session) has made it clear that her Husband will be placed on a Painfull Poon Ban if these ladies in that prison are not taken care of.
    So if y’all think you can “Game” Ron “The Ronald” into just accepting your slacking ….. well y’all better just “Think Again”.
    Thank you Senators and Represenatives,
    Earl Pitts American

    • rick whitaker

      March 4, 2024 at 5:44 am

      earl, poon to you means getting your sphincter pounded. what does your wife carol think about that? does she go out and recruit pounders for you? is poor ol’ ron desantis on that pounders list. don’t look at me, i don’t go for male sphincter pounding like you do. with all those healthy college men in your gainesville area, you should find plenty of willing pounders. is that what ” sage ” means to you. being fully pounded is your goal, but at 82 years old, i bet you don’t find many free pounders. what do you pay to a project hustler to pound you? whatever it is, it is not enough. earl, you sphincter freak, you’re despicable.

  • KathrynA

    March 4, 2024 at 9:41 am

    Let’s get back to the initial issue; let’s bring accountability to this prison where so many women have been sexually abused and worse in this prison. Cameras provide truth for both the victim or the accused. Whatever these women are incarcerated for, there is no excuse for this behavior inflicted on them. Many are in there for a couple years and for low level crimes–some of which our lawmakers themselves are probably guilty of. Professionalism and respect for the person should be code words for the Department of Correction, but are seldom found.

  • It's Complicated

    March 4, 2024 at 10:38 am

    There really is no downside to using body cams in law enforcement and corrections.

    • rick whitaker

      March 4, 2024 at 7:59 pm

      it’s complicated, there are ALWAYS a downside to any and all large scale policies why do you think you know anything about this issue? ” no downside ” , what a pompas think to say. you must be a christian, they commonly think they have things figured out, when they don’t have a clue..

Comments are closed.


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