On Wednesday, the Miami Herald reported on the story of Craig Ridley, a 62-year-old prisoner in Florida who, after having his neck broken by guards, was left to die in his cell.
"Ridley, 62, was lying on his bunk paralyzed, his neck dislocated — a catastrophic injury suffered after corrections officers tackled him to the ground face first on Sept. 8, 2017," reported Nicholas Nehamas. "A little more than a month later, he would be dead, having been manhandled, mocked and ignored by prison staff, even as he begged for help. 'My neck is broke,' Ridley said, according to a video taken by officers shortly after his injury and obtained by the Miami Herald. 'I’m paralyzed.'"
"Instead of calling for a backboard, officers at the scene of his injury forced Ridley into a wheelchair," said the report. "He drooped forward awkwardly, crying out in pain, the video shows. A prison nurse disregarded his complaints during a brief exam. 'You ain’t paralyzed,' one officer told him. Officers then put Ridley in a confinement cell, positioning him on a toilet where, unable to balance, he fell onto the hard floor — again face first — leaving a pool of blood that horrified other inmates. Once more, prison medical staff said he was fine."
According to the report, his blockmates begged guards to get him medical attention as he lay in his cell, unable to walk and starving because he couldn't reach the food he was being given. After five days of this paralysis, guards finally took him to a hospital, where "He died on Oct. 12 — five years ago Wednesday — intubated and unable to communicate."
According to the report, this story was kept hushed for years because of the Florida prison system's lack of transparency — finally laid out in a damning, almost 400 page report by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
"After suffering through the strain of the pandemic, Florida’s beleaguered prison system is stuck in a worsening crisis that could produce more cases like Ridley’s. Florida prisons have only 76 percent of the employees they need, with a statewide shortage of nearly 4,000 officers, according to the Florida Department of Corrections," said the report. "The situation has grown so alarming that Gov. Ron DeSantis is activating Florida’s National Guard to help staff state prisons, where roughly 450 incarcerated people die every year. Many pass away from natural causes thanks to the state’s long sentences and aging inmate population. Some die young because of illicit drugs, others by suicide. Most result in an autopsy, a rudimentary report — and then not much else."
This comes amid numerous other reports of egregious mistreatment of people in Florida prisons and jails — including a sheriff in Fort Myers who refused to evacuate a 457-bed jail as Hurricane Ian was bearing down on the region.
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