By: Capitol News Service
May 14, 2019
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) – Reports of abuse and poor conditions in Florida prisons are being aired by former and current correctional officers. One whistle blower who first shared his story more than four years ago is now fighting his termination, which his lawyer says is retaliation.
In November 2014, we interviewed correctional officer Tim Butler, but we didn’t tell you his name or show his face.
“I feel my life is in more danger than it's ever been,” he said.
No longer incognito, Butler says he was called on the carpet almost immediately.
“They always said they knew it was me because of my boots, the way I walked. I said, 'the way I walked?'” Butler added.
What followed, according to his lawyer, Ryan Andrews, was a year of intimidation.
“For violating his first amendment rights, they paid him a $99,000 settlement and they’ve been gunning for him ever since. He’s a preacher,” Andrews said.
Andrews continues, “You would think the department would be happy when he reports wrongdoing or abuse of power, misuse of position and inmate beating and sneaking in contraband. You would think he would be rewarded for that, but instead, when he reported it, they terminated him a couple months later.”
Butler has been given his termination paperwork, accused of being late and using unwarranted force. He calls the charges trumped up.
“You know, I’ve tried to tell them about the food. I tried to tell them about the drugs and stuff we have come in,” says Butler.
He says the firing came after he complained about drugs, drones and increasingly dangerous working conditions.
“I kept on asking them. I said, 'I need some help in the chow hall, need some more males in the chow hall.' They refused to say that, they refused to even do that,” Butler explains.
He also complained about how inmates are being treated.
“The snitch got killed. They failed to protect him,” he shares.
“Butler isn’t alone. This published report shows that a dozen current or former employees, all from one prison in Santa Rosa County, have filed for whistle blower protection," his lawyer says.
Butler is fighting to get his job back. Not so he can go back to work he says, but so he can resign with his integrity intact.
Prisons remain chronically understaffed. A parade of wardens told lawmakers this year they feared losing control of their institutions, had no money to repair facilities and couldn’t hire enough officers, forcing current employees to work long hours.