Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Prison Review a Priority, Thrasher Says

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Prison Review a Priority, Thrasher Says

Article excerpt

House Speaker John Thrasher said yesterday he will tour the Florida State Prison at Starke within two weeks and intends to make a review of the corrections system a priority in the upcoming legislative session.

A state murder investigation has focused on the July 17 death of inmate Frank Valdes, a Death Row inmate who investigators said died of multiple blunt trauma in his cell. In addition, a wider inquiry into a possible culture of violence against inmates at Florida's prisons has drawn the investigative muscle of the FBI and the Justice Department.

Thrasher said he spoke with state Corrections Secretary Michael Moore yesterday and was briefed on policy changes Moore has proposed or enacted to ensure better accountability and safety in the state's 54 prisons.

"I think it's important to go down [to the prison] firsthand and see the operation and talk to the folks down there," said Thrasher. "Ultimately it comes down to the Legislature to take a look at what's going on there and see if there are any policies or procedures that may need changing."

Thrasher said his prison visit next month will also enable him to take a look at the state's electric chair that has been the subject of recent court battles waged by death penalty opponents. Thrasher said he supports the electric chair as the means of executing condemned prisoners in Florida.

Thrasher, R-Orange Park, also said yesterday he intends to instruct the leadership of House committees that oversee prisons and prison policies to examine the situation at Florida State Prison when the committees begin meeting in September.

Moore sent a letter to Thrasher and Senate President Toni Jennings Wednesday outlining 17 steps he has taken or intends to take as a result of the Valdes death and other allegations of inmate abuse. …

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