The Florida prison system has been considered one of the most dangerous by almost any metric, including inmate-on-inmate violence, use-of-force by staff and problems with health care delivery.
More inmates died in Florida prisons last year than in any other year on record, leaving the state scrambling to identify causes and find solutions, the Miami Herald reports. The tally, 428 inmate deaths in 2017, was a 20 percent increase over previous years. The inmates who died were, on average, younger than in earlier years. Those who died in 2017 averaged 56.3 years of age. Since 2012, the average age of death in the prison system has swung between 57.1 and 58.2 years old. The Florida prison system has been considered one of the most dangerous by almost any metric, including inmate-on-inmate violence, use-of-force by staff and problems with health care delivery. There is no easy answer as to why the number of deaths spiked so drastically from one year to the next.
Corrections Secretary Julie Jones said, “As our population evolves and mirrors that of society at large, we’ve observed that an increase in inmate deaths aligns with the increase in inmates presenting with complex substance use disorders and behavioral health issues, as well as a rise in the elderly inmate population.” Between 2010 and 2016, the state reported a 51 percent increase in inmates with mental illnesses. The prison population is getting older and inmates are serving longer sentences, thanks in part to the elimination of parole. Why are younger people dying in Florida prisons? Officials cite an increase in overdoses on synthetic drugs like K2 as a factor. K2, known as “spice,” is a mash-up of industrial chemicals — in this case, whatever prisoners can get their hands on, including roach spray or gasoline — sprayed on dried plant matter and smoked. It’s often chosen by inmates over marijuana because it does not show up on urine tests.