breaking news

Florida Supreme Court to air hearings on Facebook Live

Privatized prison care: How The Post got the story


Palm Beach Post reporter Pat Beall began investigating prison health care after three physicians spoke with her about the deteriorating conditions they witnessed firsthand.

To substantiate their observations, Beall requested mortality figures from the Florida Department of Corrections under the state’s open records law.

But the figures did not provide enough detail to know whether the doctors were right.

Beall requested specific information about causes of death, which she believed should have been readily available amid the huge databases of information kept by the state.

DOC denied her request to break down monthly inmate mortality data by broad categories.

Two months later, DOC published the records on its website, saying “The Florida Department of Corrections is committed to providing information to the public in a timely and accurate manner.”

Beall and Post data editor Kavya Sukumar analyzed DOC’s monthly death data from 2000 through Aug. 1 to determine whether deaths were rising under the newly privatized health system.

Deaths classified as accidents, homicides or undetermined — 3.7 percent of the total — were discarded. Included in the analysis were deaths from natural causes, such as disease, as well as suicides and those listed as “pending.” Suicide is a medical issue because psychiatric care is part of the prison health care companies’ contracts. Based on 15 years of DOC data, most “pending” cases are determined to be a death from natural causes or suicide as opposed to murder or accident.

Beall also looked at all federal suits brought by any Florida inmate between 2004 and 2014 against Wexford Health Sources or Corizon Inc., as well as Corizon’s predecessors, Prison Health Services and Correctional Medical Services.

In addition to the more than 350 Florida suits, she examined lawsuits in Kentucky, Maine, New York, New Mexico, Idaho, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Oregon and New Jersey and pored through state audits and monitor reviews.

The family of Donna Pickelsimer, who died in June after her cancer was treated for months with Tylenol and warm compresses, gave Beall access to more than 800 pages of medical records.

Beall also corresponded with dozens of Florida inmates, their families and lawyers. Several spoke despite fear of retribution.

Some correspondence didn’t get through. Letters Beall sent to an inmate who witnessed Pickelsimer’s deterioration at Hernando Correctional prison were twice returned to The Post. One was returned because it contained a paper clip, one because prison officials said the inmate’s ID number was not correct, although her name was clearly legible.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Deputies: 2 arrested after 3-month-old child, 51 pounds of heroin, found in SUV
Deputies: 2 arrested after 3-month-old child, 51 pounds of heroin, found in SUV

Deputies in Mississippi arrested two women Monday night on suspicion of drug trafficking after authorities said they found 51 pounds of heroin and a 3-month-old child in an SUV the women were driving. A deputy pulled over a Ford SUV on Interstate 20 in Rankin County on Monday night for an unspecified traffic violation. Authorities said that during...
Brightline train death: Video shows gates were down, police say
Brightline train death: Video shows gates were down, police say

A video taken from a camera on the front of Brightline’s locomotive shows the crossing gates were down when the company’s train struck and killed Jeffrey King as he rode his bike over the Florida East Coast Railway tracks in Boynton Beach last week, according to a police report released Tuesday. King, 51, of Boynton Beach, was...
Florida DA seeks death penalty in Tampa serial killings
Florida DA seeks death penalty in Tampa serial killings

Florida prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty for a 24-year-old man they say is responsible for randomly killing four people in a Tampa neighborhood will face the death penalty, according to news reports.  Howell Emanuel Donaldson III was charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Benjamin Mitchell, 22; Monica Hoffa, 32; Anthony...
#BlackPantherChallenge sends internet into frenzy
#BlackPantherChallenge sends internet into frenzy

“Black Panther” is one of the most anticipated movies of the year, and thousands of children may have a chance to see it for free thanks to the #BlackPantherChallenge.  Earlier this month, Frederick Joseph, of New York, launched a GoFundMe to help students from the Boys & Girls Club of Harlem “see a black major cinematic...
Have your voice heard on the future of the Loxahatchee River
Have your voice heard on the future of the Loxahatchee River

Got concerns about public use on the Loxahatchee River and in the Lake Worth Creek Aquatic Preserve in north Palm Beach County? Your voice can be heard at a public meeting at 6 p.m. planned Jan. 29 at the Jupiter Community Center, 200 Military Tr. The meeting is free and open to the public.  The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is...
More Stories