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  • mcprison mcprison Jun 22, 2001 9:10 AM Flag

    complaining inmates, 1

    PALM BEACH DAILY BUSINESS REVIEW

    June 21, 2001 Thursday

    SECTION: COURTS; Pg. A1

    LENGTH: 905 words

    HEADLINE: Sex offender inmates allege cruel, unusual punishment at state prison

    Steve Ellman

    The Florida Department of Children and Families faces a flurry of habeas
    corpus lawsuits by violent sex offenders detained under the Jimmy Ryce Act
    alleging they have been mistreated at the privately run South Bay Correctional
    Facility in western Palm Beach County.

    Inmates at the prison, which is operated by Palm Beach Gardens-based
    Wackenhut Corrections Corp., allege that the state has failed to institute
    administrative rules for the facility, leaving Wackenhut personnel free to
    administer "cruel and unusual punishment, without due process of law."

    The claims arose in 10 separate petitions for writs of habeas corpus filed by
    the inmates in Palm Beach Circuit Court on May 30.

    The prisoners' allegations center on two incidents at the facility in
    January. In the first, the prisoners claim in their petitions that Wackenhut
    guards, led by a shift captain, assaulted a group of three prisoners who refused
    to be relocated within the facility without a due process hearing. In the
    second, the prisoners allege that prison officials subjected a wing of almost 40
    inmates to a full day of solitary confinement in retaliation for a fight between
    two prisoners that the inmates themselves quelled.

    The petitions are the latest sign of problems in the state's implementation
    of the 1998 Jimmy Ryce Act. That law allows for the civil commitment of violent
    sex offenders to locked treatment facilities after they've served out their
    prison sentences. But the law fails to spell out rules for confinement of
    offenders between their release from prison and their commitment hearings. As a
    result, 130 Jimmy Ryce detainees at the South Bay Correctional Facility -- who
    haven't yet been formally committed -- are sitting behind bars in penal limbo.

    In addition, 17 other South Bay inmates have asked to have similar claims
    attached to a habeas corpus case currently under way before Palm Beach Circuit
    Judge Peter Blanc. That case, Jerry A. Charles v. Kathleen Kearney, filed in
    March 2000, involves Charles, a Ryce Act detainee who was placed in solitary
    confinement at South Bay. Kearney is secretary of the Florida Department of
    Children and Families, which has administrative responsibility for the Sexually
    Violent Predator Program established by the Ryce Act.

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