Michael Moore on St. Petersburg Times Editorial Page 
May 18, 2001

May 18, 2001

Mr. Phil Gailey
Editorial Page Editor
St. Petersburg Times
490 First Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33731-1121

Dear Mr. Gailey:

This is in response to your editorial published May 17, 2001, entitled, "Corrections Reform". The correctional environment is unique: it is one in which hard-working men and women are expected to be "their brother's keeper". They stand face-to-face with the most violent of society's offenders- without weapons. These are my employees and I am very proud of them.

I understand the rigors of this environment, having myself served as a correctional officer, I have no tolerance for those who might take advantage of the correctional system - either through abusive exercise of power over inmates or over other correctional officers. The Florida Department of Corrections has a "zero tolerance" for misconduct - whether by those who uphold the correctional system or by those against whom it must be upheld. I support swift, thorough and judicious discipline of individuals who do not "play by the rules".

Since my tenure as Secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections, I have instituted sweeping changes within the correctional system that have generated highly positive results - results which are entirely ignored in your editorial. Under my direction, significant changes have been made in the department's Inspector General's Office.

One of my main missions was to raise the standards of the department's institutional inspectors and to improve the overall quality of investigations. This agency has now recruited and trained 1/3 of its staff to become law enforcement certified thereby raising both the knowledge base and professionalism of the department's investigative force. I ordered that institutional inspectors stop reporting to wardens and instead report directly to the Inspector General thereby centralizing investigations. This has increased uniformity and efficiency of the investigative process.

In your editorial, you mentioned the late Captain Willie Hogan's personal diaries. When the allegations at Lancaster Correctional Institution came to my attention, I immediately ordered a team of DOC inspectors to that institution. A dozen inspectors interviewed 347 prison employees. I also sent another team to investigate allegations of racial discrimination. Both investigations were exhaustive, and each determined that no misconduct or discrimination had occurred. We interviewed Captain Hogan during those investigations, and he stated verbally and in writing that he did not have any personal knowledge of inmate abuse. My staff provided a copy of that statement to Adam Smith, a St Petersburg Times reporter. Mr. Smith was also provided with a copy of our personnel rules, which state, "No employee shall refuse to truthfully answer questions specifically relating to the performance of his or her official duties" and with a copy of the internal investigation that was completed.

Your editorial fails to mention that you are aware of the existence of this information. This is blatantly irresponsible. Even though I cannot comment on pending litigation, I believe if you actually look into the class-action lawsuit mentioned in your editorial, you will see that all allegations raised therein preceded my being appointed secretary. This does not, however, relieve this agency from instituting appropriate reform-a goal we have been working toward.

After I as appointed Secretary, I established an Equal Employment Opportunity Investigative Unit (EEOIU) within the Bureau of Personnel to conduct investigations of complaints. As soon as the allegations of this lawsuit were brought to my attention, I immediately ordered our EEOIU to Tomoka Correctional Institution, Marion Correctional Institution, Lake Correctional Institution and North Florida Reception Center.

I asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to handle the investigation into allegations of
criminal misconduct at North Florida Reception Center to provide "objective scrutiny" from an outside agency. Regretfully, I must agree with your statement that, we have "a recruitment and retention problem". DOC employees put their lives on the line everyday working in prisons for pay that will never compensate them for the risks they face for the safety of the citizens of the State of Florida. We are fortunate that the Governor and the Legislature have provided a 4.5% pay raise for correctional officers and correctional probation officers. These men and women walk the toughest beat in the state, and your paper has done them a great injustice. This agency has approximately 27,000 employees and the vast majority are honest and hard working individuals who do their jobs professionally and with integrity.

Our employees understand their personal responsibility in the workplace and are encouraged and supported when expressing concerns that affect their jobs. Prisons are dangerous and volatile. Incidents occur every day, and it is the correctional officer who must intervene to prevent injury. Officers are subjected to constant humiliation, abuse and harassment. Fortunately, this year the Florida Legislature passed new legislation that makes it a felony battery to throw, toss or expel certain fluids or materials on an employee of a correctional facility. DOC has tried for five years to make this a law and are pleased that the lawmakers have come to the same conclusion we have regarding this despicable practice. The inmate's most powerful weapon is to allege abuse.

Many inmates use the courts for the same purpose. We take these complaints seriously and respond to each and every one. Our department is one of the few in the nation fully accredited by the American Correctional Association. We are reviewed by many outside agencies. Every year we invite the Legislature and staff to our institutions; we have tours with the judicial branch as well. I embrace the opportunity to show our operations and to tell our story. We are proud of what we do, and we are correctional officers - not guards.

Check our website, see our employee suggestions, recognize our accomplishments - and write a more responsible and accurate article about everyday "Corrections Reform".

Sincerely,
Michael W. Moore
Secretary

 

-----Original Message-----
From: Kay Lee <kaylee1@charter.net>
To: FDOC Michael Moore <moore.michael@mail.dc.state.fl.us>; St.Petersburg Times LTE <letters@sptimes.com>
Cc: Stop Florida Torture <stopfloridatorture@yahoogroups.com>
Date: Saturday, May 19, 2001 3:11 AM
Subject: RE: Michael Moore's May 18th LTE

Dear Mr. Moore,

My responses while reading your self-congratulatory letter to Mr. Gailey ranged from humor to astonishment to disgust. I'm going to beg the St. Pete Times not to offer you an apology for speaking out against your practices.

I've been working with Florida families and prisoners nearly as long as you have been in our state. I've communicated with their lawyers and ministers. I've listened to whispered information relayed by very nervous DOC employees and even their family members. I've collected affidavits, medical records, grievances, pictures, tape recordings, and even the skin off the back of an inmate peppersprayed and left for three days without a shower. Don't you sit there and think you are convincing anyone of your noble acts and their good-for-the-people-of-Florida ramifications.

There is a difference between Correctional Officers and guards, and you have many of both. Trouble is the unprofessional guards are ruining the reputations of the Correctional Officers. I do not know how you can claim to not know that your guards turn on outspoken Correctional Officers as quickly as they do a talkative inmate. One of your own employees told me that if many of those guards were not wearing the uniform of the Florida DOC, they'd be street gangs.

I am tired of hearing that your guards and COs bravely risk their lives everyday when I know that many of them spend their days with their feet on the desk, ignoring the needs of prisoners, and disregarding the Chapter 33 rules laid down to guide their own behavior.

And did you say these courageous honest COs risk life and limb without weapons? What about the stun guns, the shields, the cuffs and shackles, the pepperspray, the restraining chairs, the goon squads, the guards with guns in the towers? Don't you think we have noticed the demographics of the prison population changing, growing older with mandatory minimums, less violent with the drug war? I mean, for heaven sakes, Justice Department statistics tell us that way more than half of the prisoners are non-violent offenders, mostly of the drug laws, only 12% are there for violence, and only 2% are repeatedly violent.

Your rules and your guards have reduced 72,000 people to the state of unhealthy animals. Tuberculosis, Hepatitis C, and AIDS rage through the prisons because of preventable rape, unsanitary conditions, poor diets, poor medical care, close, airless quarters, lack of sunshine, and depression. A quarter of incoming prisoners are already mentally ill, but long isolations, brutal conditions, lack of family contact, fear of errant guards and their psychological mind games will put us all in danger and debt.

You personally are assuring that the future medical cost of released prisoners and those they come in contact with will be more than the taxpayer can bear. Your are endangering the rest of us by releasing prisoners who have become angry and mentally unbalanced. Their post traumatic stress could cost me or someone I love their life. This is what you, Michael Moore, have given the citizens of Florida. You better hope there is no God.

The ripple effect of the brutality, corruption and neglect you have allowed has created mass anger among their families and supporters. Do you know or care that even your employees feel the same way about you that the prisoners and their families do? A DOC employee once told me that everybody hoped George Bush would become president and take you to Washington with him so things could get back to normal again. Your own employees told me how frustrating it is trying to follow your mandate, "Do more with less."

You've reportedly done the same things in other states you've been in. When there is a riot, it will be desperate people reacting to the more than harsh situation you and your protected bully boys have created in the Florida prisons. Every policy you institute is in direct opposition to every study ever done on reducing recidivism and endangers us all. So I have to question your motives.

The most hypocritical words the DOC ever has spoken is, "All inmates are liars." Sir, not only do I question many of your guards' professionalism, but I question your honesty as well. You say you are proud of your employees and the facilities they are running, and brag about the echelon that visits your prisons. I ask you why then does the media have such a hard time getting in to talk to the prisoners you call liars? Why do the prisons cut off family contact when an inmate claims brutality is going on? Why is there a constant movement throughout Florida of mass amounts of prisoners, and errant guards?

I charge you, Michael Moore, with crimes against humanity. You've not heard the last of me.

Visualizing Transparent Walls,
Kay Lee
2613 Larry Court
Eau Gallie, Fl 32935
321-253-3673

 

-----Original Message-----
From: Taoss <taoss@worldnet.att.net>
To: Kay Lee <kaylee1@charter.net>; FDOC Michael Moore <moore.michael@mail.dc.state.fl.us>; St.Petersburg Times LTE <letters@sptimes.com>
Cc: Stop Florida Torture <stopfloridatorture@yahoogroups.com>; PATRICK LIST <patrickcrusade@yahoogroups.com>
Date: Sunday, May 20, 2001 10:28 AM
Subject: MICHAEL MOORE ON ST PETE EDITORIAL PAGE

Dear Mr. Moore,

I have been watching the Florida prison system and other prison systems across this nation for a long time, and when I hear the words you are reporting to the news media, I cringe, praying the news media isn't as stupid or gullible as you think they are. "The inmate's most powerful weapon is to allege abuse. Many inmates use the courts for the same purpose. We take these complaints seriously and respond to each and every one." Which is it? In one simple phrase, you belie your own words. In the first sentence, you demonstrate your feelings that all inmates are liars, stating they use the courts as a weapon to perpetuate their lies. In the sentence that follows, you demonstrate your own lie that you and DOC take these things seriously, when you just got finished saying you don't. While you may respond to "every one," those responses are non-responsive, alleging that the inmates' claims are frivolous [meaning you've determined they are lies, thus no "seriousness" is demonstrated]. This is not the way to run a railroad -- that is, unless your intention is to railroad all of us -- which I continue to observe over and over again, and therefore believe is the case.

You further stated, "I asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to handle the investigation into allegations of criminal misconduct at North Florida Reception Center to provide "objective scrutiny" from an outside agency." This is tantamount to having the fox inspect the chicken house. Trouble is, we know this about the DOC's across this nation, and I am more than thankful the news media in Florida has the fortitude and integrity to see past and through these ploys to hide the truth. Thank God for them printing the truth. Oh, I do not blame you for working so hard to prevent the news media from having access to inmates. Your cover would be blown and you and many other DOC employees would go to jail for the crimes you have committed against other human beings. A real "outside agency" would find your truth, so specifically which "outside agency" would you e selecting to give you "objective scrutiny" of the allegations of criminal misconduct? Yes, indeed, I am charging you with breaking the law of the land and conspiring to conceal the truth from the public.

Do not forget that it is the public who is paying your salary. We have every right to know what goes on with our investment, yet you feel it is "necessary" to prevent us from doing that. That alone raises many suspicions regarding your own conduct and the conduct of your employees. I recommend that the "outside agency" doing a thorough inspection -- one that would indeed give you and us "objective scrutiny" -- would be a team of expert criminologists and psychologists from the finest universities across this nation where the origin is not from Florida. Then, and only then, would we the public have some faith that the truth would finally be told and actions to correct the present debacle would be taken straight away.

Sherry Swiney
www.patrickcrusade.org



Back

Home