Guards openly brag about being white supremacists in Florida prison

In Florida, three guards who were known to be white supremacists abused prisoners, and were kept on the job

Published November 23, 2021 2:08PM (EST)

A Ku Klux Klan demonstration at the state house building on July 18, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Getty/John Moore)
A Ku Klux Klan demonstration at the state house building on July 18, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Getty/John Moore)

Officers with the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) openly brag about being white supremacists.

Three white officers recently beat, pepper sprayed, and used a stun gun on a Black inmate who was screaming that he couldn't breathe, in full view of surveillance cameras. The next day, the officers did it again. 

In a new report from the Associated Press, who interviewed inmates of several Florida prisons and prison guards, this problem goes deeper than a couple of bad apples in the bunch. One inmate, Jamaal Reynolds, wrote that "Black officers and white officers don't even mingle with each other. Every day they create a hostile environment trying to provoke us so they can have a reason to put their hands on us." 

In 2017, three DOC officers, who were members of the Ku Klux Klan, were arrested by the FBI for planning the murder of a Black former inmate. This summer, one guard allowed for a meeting of white supremacists to take place. A Black officer, interviewed by AP, who reported the meeting, said that the incident report they filed went nowhere, and there was no consequence for the guard who allowed the meeting to take place. In late September of this year, another Black inmate was beaten by a guard who said "You're lucky I didn't have my spray on me, cuz I would gas yo Black ass."

The culture created within the DOC doesn't encourage officers "snitching" on other officers by reporting misconduct. The Black officer that spoke to AP about filing an incident report spoke anonymously, and is attempting to leave their job with the DOC. Mark Caruso, a former sergeant who was fired and reinstated for being a whistleblower of misconduct, described the body as a "good old boys" club. Despite intimidation tactics, including other officers spitting on his windshield, Caruso continued to call out other officers for violent behavior. Caruso was fired for allegedly not reporting an inmate beating, which he claims he never saw, in 2019. His claims that it was retaliation for his whistleblowing were unsuccessful.

This issue is not a new one for Florida.

From AP, "In the early 2000s, the corrections department was forced by a St. Petersburg Times expose to investigate a clique of racist guards who all carried rope keychains with a noose. The Times reported that the noose keychains were used to signal a racist officer who was willing to inflict pain, particularly on Black inmates." In April of this year, one AP reporter found "Confederate flags, Q-Anon and Thin Blue Line images." on officers' cars in the parking lot of one facility. 

Democratic Florida state Rep. Dianne Hart has called for a federal takeover of the prison system and a formal investigation. 

There is a nationwide pattern of those with extremist views being hidden within law enforcement and prison administration. Prison Legal News, a prisoner rights publication, has reported cases of "Nazis and klan members working as correctional officers in California, New York, Texas, Illinois and many other states." Paul Wright, a founder of Prison Legal News, said that "There's an institutional acceptance of this type of racism...What's striking about this is that so many of them keep their jobs."

By Trish Rooney

Trish Rooney is an Editorial Intern with Salon and a graduate journalism student at New York University. Follow her on Twitter @trishroooney.

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Brief Dianne Hart Doc Florida Kkk Prisons