The Phoenix Flyer

FL Dept. of Corrections says it fired one officer and disciplined others who joked about abusing inmates

By: - July 25, 2019 10:25 am

The Florida Department of Corrections says it has terminated one employee and disciplined three others who joked about committing violence on inmates at correctional institutions in Florida earlier this year. The officers were being investigated for making offensive comments on Facebook pages while participating in a social meme called the #feelingcute challenge that was revealed this spring.

In April, the Houston Chronicle reported that many of these photos of prison officials around the country mocking prisoners were shared in a Facebook group called “Correctional Officer Life.”

There were screenshots of officers taking selfies, making jokes about using excessive force, planting drugs, and in one circumstance, leaving inmates in the shower for hours at a time.

The Miami New-Times reported that there were four instances of Florida Department of Corrections posting memes about how they’d like to commit acts of violence or abuse, in all cases wearing their official Department of Correction uniforms.

A Department of Corrections spokesman now tells the Florida Phoenix that five staff members participated in the #feelingcute challenge.

One employee was dismissed, one resigned before final action was delivered, one was suspended, one was demoted, and one employee was provided employment counseling. The Department of Corrections is not releasing the names of the employees.

“Each individual circumstance was evaluated separately, and appropriate action was taken,” says a statement sent to the Phoenix. “Numerous factors were taken into account, including the severity of the violation, past discipline record and employment history.”

The statement also said that “these social media posts were against the core values of our profession and were not tolerated.”

The information comes while the DOC’s Inspector General is currently investigating a beating of an inmate by officers at Lake Correctional Institute in Clermont that was captured on a cellphone camera by another inmate earlier this month. The Jacksonville Times-Union subsequently discovered and published comments made by guards on a Facebook page where they appeared “to take pride in the damage they inflicted on the inmate.”

“All officers identified to be involved have been taken out of contact with inmates and will not be allowed to return to full duty until a thorough investigation has been completed,” Department of Corrections Secretary Mark Inch said last week. “Those found participating in any level of abuse, or failing to properly report abuse, will be subject to administrative and criminal charges.”

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Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.