Death In Custody: How Common Is It In Florida?

February 11, 2015 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
Death In Custody: How Common Is It In Florida? Prisons are homes for those who have made mistakes. Spending time behind bars is a rough way to learn a lesson, but it's a second chance nonetheless. Prison life is far from the everyday routines that Florida citizens like you and I have. Instead of worrying about bills, groceries, and the recent Patriots vs. Seahawks game, inmates waste time worrying about enemies, reputation, and staying healthy until their sentence is up. Our world's population is impressive. Earth bears over 7 billion people; around 5% of which (316 million) live in the United States. As it stands today, there are around 707 prisoners per 100,000 citizens in the United States alone. Statistically, that gives the U.S. the second highest incarceration rate in the entire world—beaten only by Seychelles, an African country with a total citizen population less than half of the United States prison population. However, logically—and on a level playing field—the United States is by far the biggest jailer in the entire world. There's somewhere around 11 million prisoners worldwide—the United States has 2 million of them. How is our prison system in Florida?  Furthering the simplification of our prison systems, Florida has nearly 105,000 prisoners in its control currently; approximately 5% of the country's total prisoners. Unfortunately, a quarter of Florida prisoners that complete their sentence and are released find themselves back in the Florida prison system within 3 years. The rate at which prisoners wind up back in prison after their sentence and before a certain time frame is known as the recidivism rate—Florida's is 26.3% Going back to the statement I made just a moment ago about prison being like a “second chance”—what would happen if that second chance was taken away from an inmate? Unless a criminal has been convicted of a crime that will require him or her to serve some serious time, there should be some light at the end of the tunnel. But how would the family of a loved one feel if that chance to be free again was taken away prematurely by death? Sadly, inmate mortality rates in the United States are the highest in the world, and Florida takes the cake for top contributor with 346 deaths last year alone. Those deaths have people looking for answers. Are those deaths to be blamed on the wrongdoings of the Florida correctional institutions?  When a correctional facility takes into custody a prisoner, they become responsible for multiple aspects of said prisoner's well-being. Yes, even prison has a standard of living; despite popular belief, it is not just a place to dump off those who break the law—it's designed to correct their behavior and entice inmates to make better future decisions. With that said, it's understandable for prison to be harsh—it shouldn't be a free vacation for lawbreakers, but when is “enough” enough? People wind up in prison for an immeasurable amount of differing reasons and serve sentences ranging from days to life-long, but the length of their sentence is not always determined by the inmate him/herself—their very life could be taken before any sentence is concluded. Whether this be from the physical actions (or lack thereof) of another entity in the prison facility or the inmate themselves, it's always important to determine if any negligence was involved in the death of an inmate. Any medical or health routines that these inmates used to have may be drastically different now. Medication has to be regulated and administered by a completely different medical provider now—a provider who may be uninformed of certain details, or absent altogether. It is strictly required that acceptable medical care is available for inmates, but you'd better believe that prisons all over the country are negligent exclusively in that area. However, it's not only negligence in the medical field that can lead to the wrongful death of an inmate in which a correctional institution would be liable; negligence can spread across a vast array of categories. Can you expect negligence in a prison environment?  A prison has a responsibility in keeping both the physical and mental health of prisoners reasonably sound to prevent unnecessary injuries, suffering, or death. In other words, a prison facility is expected to do everything and anything “reasonably” in their power to keep prisoners in good health and on track to recovery, but something about that seems to be getting harder and harder for Florida prisons to do, because the state's inmate mortality rate is only growing, scoring a high of 346 prisoner deaths in 2014 alone. Negligence could come in many different forms, some of which are less obvious than others. For example, a drug addict cannot be immediately taken off of said drug and tossed into a cell. Drug addicts will begin to suffer withdrawals, sometimes after a short period of time (depending on the conditions of the addiction), and will need medical attention. Since prisons clearly aren't going to supply an addict with the illegal drugs that he or she is locked up for, there needs to be another alternative. Medical professionals are well aware of this, and trust me, they are trained to treat recovering drug addicts and keep them in good health, but it doesn't always happen that way. An inmate may inevitably lose their life if their calls for help are ignored by negligent prison staff for long enough. Acts of favoritism, corruption, and gross negligence amongst guards and inmates are the reason our prison system is becoming infamous for counter-productivity. 


Prison should not be the “danger zone” that it's slowly becoming; inmates should not fear for their life. Unless they are sentenced to death for a horrific crime, death should be on an inmate's mind no more than it normally is, but as of right now, that's the opposite case. Inmate mortality is a real problem in Florida right now and it's expected to continue growth through 2015.

If you believe a loved one's death as an inmate was linked to the negligence of a prison facility or correctional institution, it's crucial to contact an experienced wrongful death attorney that can help you determine negligence in your case. The Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA—operating in the Tampa Bay Area—strives to ease the stress that builds up when a wrongful death occurs within a family. Visit our website or give us a call today for a free consultation and case evaluation: 727-451-6900. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 800 North Belcher Road Clearwater, FL 33765 727-451-6900


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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