May 23, 2013
A report released by the U.S. Justice Department has found that conditions inside the Escambia County Jail routinely violate the constitutional rights of prisoners.
The DOJ concluded that known systemic deficiencies at the jail, mainly due to staffing shortages, continue to subject prisoners to excessive risk of assault by other prisoners and to “clearly inadequate” mental health care.
The five-year investigation also found that until recently, the jail had an informal policy and practice of designating some of its housing units as only for African-American prisoners. By segregating some of its prisoners on the basis of race, the jail not only stigmatized and discriminated against many of its African-American prisoners, it also fanned combustible racial tensions within the jail.
Escambia County Sheriff’ David Morgan has warned the Escambia County Commission about the woeful conditions in the facility, which houses roughly 1,300 prisoners. His recently submitted 2013-2014 budget request to the commission includes a request for an $18.8 million increase. A portion of the increase was specifically requested to hire 83 additional detention deputies along with 12 detention assistants for $6.3 million.
The beginning of the DOJ investigation coincided with Morgan taking office, and the report praised his efforts to improve conditions.
“We commend Sheriff Morgan for his willingness to work aggressively to remedy many of the problems brought to his attention during the course of our investigation,” said Roy L. Austin Jr., Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division.
Some of Morgan’s improvements included the implementation of a formal prisoner classification system, improvements in monitoring the use of force, development of a prisoner grievance process, increase use of surveillance cameras, retrofitting cells to decrease suicide risk, improvements to female housing, addressing the needs of prisoners with physical disabilities and improved medical procedures.
But the DOJ’s report still found numerous issues, many related to inadequate staffing.
The report found:
- Prisoner on prisoner assaults are a common occurrence at the jail, making the facility unsafe for prisoners.
- A March 2011 study gave county officials insight to the severe staffing problems at the facility.
- Jail leadership fails to appropriately monitor and track prisoner on prisoner violence and the use of force by staff on prisoners.
- The decades-long practice of housing some prisoners in black-only pods was discriminatory, fanned racial tensions and contributed to prisoner perceptions that the jail favors white prisoners over black prisoners. The practice ended in 2012.
- The jail does not provide adequate and timely access to appropriately skilled mental health professionals, routinely fails to provide appropriate mental health medications, and provides inadequate housing and observation for prisoners with serious mental illness. The report found about one prisoner per month is sent to the hospital after self-injury as a result of a clearly inadequate mental health program.
“Without an adequate complement of security personnel, (the) Escambia County Jail cannot possibly keep its prisoners safe,” the report found.”Until the Jail addresses staffing shortages, the Jail will remain unsafe.”
Additionally, staffing shortages have crippled the jail’s ability to conduct a sufficient number of cell searches to protect both prisoners and staff from serious harm due to contraband and potentially dangerous items. According to the DOJ, only 41 cell searches were conducted across the entire facility during a one year period.
The sheriff and county have 49 days to reach an agreement with the Department of Justice on how they plan to correct the staffing and additional issues at the jail. If no agreement is reached by the deadline, the Attorney General may file a federal lawsuit.
May 23, 2013
The state champion Northview High School Chiefs have released their 2013 football schedule.
The schedule begins with a Preseason Classic game on August 23 against 5-A Panama City Bay. The Chiefs will also face 4-A Marianna, 6-A Choctawhatchee and 4-A Defuniak Springs Walton.
May 23, 2013
The Atmore Rotary Club announced Wednesday that the annual Old Time Fiddler’s Convention — a primary fund raiser for the group’s Academic All Stars Program — will not be held in 2013. This year would have been the 33rd annual event.
Organizers said the Academic All-Stars program will continue and will not be impacted by the decision.
The Rotary Club decided to not hold the event this year in order to explore ways to update and improve this event with the goal of increasing event attendance numbers, organizers said.
“This long running event is held close to our hearts as Rotarians, but as with all things, it is good business practice to review event processes and effectiveness, said Atmore Rotary Club President Jennifer Chism. “We want to be proactive and ensure this event can continue to be successful both in terms of exposure and profitability.”
The Old Time Fiddler’s Convention was a primary fund raiser for the Atmore Rotary Club’s Academic All Star Program, which rewards academically successful high school students with recognition of their scholastic achievements through scholarship awards. This year the Rotary Club awarded scholarships to 130 students from Atmore Christian School, Escambia Academy, Escambia County High School and Northview High School.
Pictured top: 2013 Academic All Star scholarship winners from four area high schools at a May 9 program. Pictured inset: Atmore Rotary Club President Jennifer Chism. Pictured below: Randolph B. Luttrell, Sr.Scholarship Winner La’Derious Ty’Shon Franklin of Northview High School. NorthEscambia.com file photos, click to enlarge.
May 22, 2013
A Molino man that was shot multiple times after driving his vehicle into a house in Cantonment last summer is headed to prison.
John Alex Godwin, age 35 of Molino Road, was found guilty of burglary and two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He was sentenced by Judge Terry Terrell to 15 years in state prison as a habitual offender, to be followed by five years probation.
During the predawn hours of July 13, 2012, the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office said Godwin crashed his car into the home of 25-year old Heather McKamey of Cantonment. The car literally pushed in the front door, door frame and surrounding bricks.
Godwin was then shot by 25-year old Andrew Lundy of Cantonment. Lundy was not charged. Godwin suffered multiple gunshot woulds and was airlifted to Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, Godwin was McKamey’s ex-boyfriend. She had unsuccessfully tried to get a restraining order against him in Escambia County back in June 2012 after a domestic violence incident between the pair in Mississippi.
According to a Gulfport Police Department incident report, Godwin was dating McKamey when he allegedly assaulted her on I-10 in Mississippi at the 33 mile marker by grabbing her hair and throwing her to the ground. She suffered minor lacerations to her hand during the incident, according to the report.
May 22, 2013
Northview High School took a moment to stop and say “thanks” Tuesday to the Poarch Band of Creek Indians for their ongoing support of the school, and employees from Century Correctional Institution gave away a few bicycles just to add to the excitement of the event.
During this school year, notable contributions from the Poarch Creeks to Northview, including items in a $56,594.66 grant, were use of their buses, minor sports uniforms and equipment, laptops, projection mounts, contributions to different groups for expenses to attend the Class 1A State Championship football game in Orlando, and two “workhorse” copiers. Visitors to the school will see the PBCI logo affixed to the copiers and technology items.
“On behalf of the entire Northview Chiefs’ family, I would like to thank the Poarch Band of Creek Indians who have been overwhelmingly supportive,” NHS Principal Gayle Weaver said Tuesday. “All of us are most appreciative. Their contributions and support enabled the students to have an enhanced quality education.”
During Tuesday’s Poarch Creek appreciation event at Northview, five students received new bicycles courtesy of Century Correctional Institution. The winning students were chosen from those nominated as “most improved” in particular areas, including behavior, grades, attendance and class participation.
Winners were seniors Zach Bradley and Demontra Mitchell, junior Matt Cayson, sophomore Jessica Brewton and freshman David Godwin.
Pictured top and inset: Northview students and faculty showed their appreciation to the Poarch Creek Indians on Tuesday. Pictured below: Bicycles were award to Jessica Brewton, David Godwin, Matt Cayson, Zach Bradley, Demontra Mitchell. Pictured bottom (courtesy photo): The bicycles for “most improved” students were donated by Century Correctional Institution employees and delivered by Lt. Matthew Jackson, Sgt. Dale Henderson and Warden John Whitehurst. NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.
May 21, 2013
A 25-year old Flomaton man was killed in two vehicle crash Monday evening in Baldwin County.
According to Alabama State Troopers, Clayton Trent Adams was driving a 1996 Honda Civic when he collided with a 2005 Chevrolet pickup driven by 44-year old Shannon Vinson of Robertsdale on Highway 31 about five miles north of Bay Minette.
Adams was pronounced deceased at the scene.
Vinson was transported by North Baldwin Infirmary in Bay Minette.
Further details have not yet been released by Alabama State Troopers as they continue their investigation.