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Democratic lawmakers hope DOJ report on sex abuse at Lowell can lead to prison changes

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Lowell Correctional Institution north of Ocala. Photo: FDOC

Democratic lawmakers will take with them to Tallahassee a report by the Department of Justice on sexual abuse by officers at Lowell, the largest women’s prison in the country.

They believe it will help raise awareness of the changes needed in Florida prisons.

The Florida Department of Corrections knew of ongoing sexual abuse by staff at the prison near Ocala since 2006, the report says. But FDOC failed to remedy the “systemic problems” that allow officers to continue abusing inmates.

The report found a pattern and practice of sexual abuse amounting to cruel and unusual punishment.

At a Zoom event Thursday, lawmakers said they want to see accountability from officers, a system for tracking abusers, personnel changes, more women working in women’s prisons, real educational opportunities, more gain time and better health care.

Rep. Dianne Hart of Tampa has a bill creating a citizen review council.

“We’re going to file legislation that will directly impact all of the things that you hear us talking about here today,” she said.

They hope the scathing DOJ report will open the eyes of their colleagues.


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Joe Byrnes

About Joe Byrnes


Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.