MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The former director of the state’s prisons has knocked Governor Rick Scott for reportedly ignoring the crisis in the corrections’ system.
In an exclusive interview with CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald, former corrections secretary Mike Crews said the department was under fire after a number of questionable inmate deaths including one mentally ill inmate who died in a scalding shower as part of a punishment ritual by officers at Dade Correctional Institution.
The former prisons chief told the Miami Herald he fielded a number of urgent calls from the governor’s office as Scott’s re-election campaign kicked into high gear and civil rights groups called for a U.S. Justice Department investigation into the deaths.
The situation took a turn for the worse, according to Crews, when Scott’s chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth, called him in July and said “We need you to take a bullet for the governor,’’ according to the Miami Herald.
Crews said the Governor’s Office then asked him to fire people who he did not think should be fired, quoted him in press releases with things he never said and were unconcerned about the real problem with the system which is rundown and understaffed.
Crews said appealed for help to alleviate the lack of manpower and inadequate infracture, but it never came. Crews said the staffing situation got worse after their food and medical costs increased, but they weren’t given any more money to pay for it so they had to take it out of staffing.
In submitting his last budget proposal, Crews said he refused to sign it after he was pressured to slash his request for more officers and still publicly maintain the budget was adequate to run a safe prison system, according to the Miami Herald.
He said the stress of the job caused he and wife to lose 30 pounds.
After Scott won re-election in November election, Crews made plans to leave, but was asked to stick it out for a few more weeks. He declined and left to accept a job as vice president of the Florida Sheriffs Insurance Institute.
In response to Crews’ statements, Governor Scott’s Office issued the following statement:
“The Governor has made it clear that he wants true reforms at the Department of Corrections. The Governor has very high standards for agency leaders and holds them responsible for making improvements and addressing any chronic failures within their systems.”
Last week, Scott unveiled his nearly $77 billion spending plan for the budget year that begins in July. It includes money for 163 full-time positions for the corrections department.
CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed to this report.