Prisoners across Florida have been staging mass protests, disturbances and uprisings over the past week, even taking control of their living space in a system designed to afford them as little freedom as possible.
On Monday evening, approximately 40 inmates at Columbia Correctional Institution, a men’s prison located in Lake City, FL, engaged in what the Miami Herald described as an act of “civil disobedience.” According to the Herald, inmates refusing orders issued by prison officials gained temporary control of at least one housing dormitory. Florida Department of Corrections spokesperson Michelle Glady told the paper that no one was hurt during the incident, which was resolved quickly. Nevertheless, the prison reportedly remained on lockdown well into Tuesday.
The Florida Department of Corrections website lists CCI as a mixed-security prison with ratings ranging from close, medium, minimum, and community. It is unclear in which of the prison’s nine housing units the prisoners’ act of civil disobedience took place. (The department has not responded to my request for comment on the incident.)
Florida’s prison system has seen several high profile disruptions over the past several days. On September 7, an hours-long, 400-inmate riot in the Holmes Correctional Institution reportedly caused extensive damage throughout the prison. It was followed by other disturbances at the Gulf Annex, Mayo, and Jackson Correctional Institutions, although the Herald notes that it’s unclear to what degree these may have been part of the larger, coordinated, work stoppage effort.
Monday’s incident comes amidst a series of coordinated work stoppages in prisons across the country. The nationwide effort, which officially began on the September 9 anniversary of the Attica Prison Uprising, is meant to call attention to conditions within the prison labor force which organizers describe as “modern day slavery.”
In Michigan, several hundred prisoners reportedly began marching in solidarity inside their prison, resulting in some damage. Similar acts of disobedience have taken place in Nebraska, California, and Alabama.
CCI has something of a reputation for violence within the Florida penal system. In 2012, a correctional officer was killed while on duty at the prison. In 2014, two inmates were shot there. And this past April, an inmate in protective custody at the prison was found dead within 24 hours of a correctional officer having been stabbed with a homemade weapon.
According to the Herald, Julie Jones, secretary for the Florida DoC, has “acknowledged” that understaffing has been an issue for the prison system. On September 13, a day after their statement announced the resumption of normal operations, the DoC’s office of communication posted two more releases–each advertising a recruitment event.