Nurses win lawsuit aginst Florida DOC

  1. This will probally be a long post as there is a lot to tell you about!

    Some five years ago my wife and the other Nurses were tired of the "Gunning" that was going on in close management or confinement. It was a very trying time as soon as the lawsuit was filed. The premise of the lawsuit was that the DOC when informed that masturbation was at an extreme level from inmates at Nurses and that it was out of control. The officers did as much as they could to control it but were excluded from really doing anything by the rules and regulations. When the Nurses went to anyone about the problem they were shunned or told that they had to remember where they worked and it was the inmates home. They Nurses said that the noise level in the Quads was so loud that they had a hard time functioning. One Nurses testified that the inmate stuck his penis out the food flap and ejaculated almost hitting her with the sperm. This problem was taken all the way up the chain of command with little or no results. They then filed a lawsuit in the State of Florida. The case was determined as a class action suit but was referred to the 11th Federal District Court. From the time the lawsuit was filed all hell broke loose in the Medical Dept. People where transfered, people were moved from shift to shift and the supervisor (involved in the suit) was asked to resign 11 months and 28 days into her 12 month probationary period. It took five years for the case to finally come to trial and it ended last night about 7:30pm when the jury came back with a verdict for the Nurses. The state was found quilty of allowing the situation to continue without action and created or allowed a hostile working situation for the Nurses. The court also found or said that it was a gender based hostile enviornment because the only people involved were Nurses and they were all female. Now about the trial!

    First and foremost you would not believe the State and the witnesses they presented. They had everything from Sargents to the head of security testify and you would not believe how stupid most of them sounded. Yes I'm a little prejudiced but taken from a objective point they did so much lying that it was obvious to anyone. Most of the officers said that the situation never happens and everything was just great and under control. But when their expert witness got up there she said that it was a prison wide problem. One of the officers said everything was quiet at night because they were sleeping. Another officer said nights were hell as everyone was up. The Nurses stated that the inmates would be standing in the cell either naked or in boxer shorts everytime they checked to see that the inmate was alive and well as it was a requirement for medical. The Nurses would then give them their meds or other medical things thru the food flap. Many of the Nurses testified that the inmate would be masturbating when she looked in the cell. One might wonder why I used the name yellow brick road for my name. The nurses described how when they were approaching the prison the inmate would hear the med cart coming and the foul langage would start. The Nurses described the langage used at them and I don't even used langage that bad. Example: Inmate told a Nurses that when her husband XXXXXXXX. This is just an example of things even worse. All the officers said that it was just an occasional problem and everything was just hunky dorrie! Anyway! The Nurses wrote a letter to the Secretary of Corrections and it to was ignored for almost 18 months and then all of a sudden an investigation was held and tape recordings were made of the interviews but when the Lawyers for the Nurses requested them they were not to be found to back up the investigative report. That was the only thing the state did in relation to the complaint until the trial. I honestly thought we were going to lose because the state had all there ducks in a row but you know that when people are hiding the truth someplace or somewhere it will come out and it did in several of the state witnesses. One of the wardens stated that everything was quiet when he went down there but one of the officers said the noise got so bad that the warden called one night to find out why the noise was so loud. He lives on the compound about 300 hundred yards away thru a forest of trees. The state constantly ask every Nurse under oath who the officers were that didn't perform their duties to stop the problem and I really thought they were going to ask the Judge for a demand to give them the names. Most of the state witness said they couldn't recall anything and used that phrase and it was pretty obvious that they had been coached. When the Nurses were asked to give up the names all of them refused. When asked why they said they would not give names of people that watched their back on the compound. Anyway I could site example after example but the State of Florida will now be a little more concerned about Nurses and treatment of them. It's amazing that this situation continued so long because all it would have taken was for the Nurses to know that the people cared about them and were trying to do something.

    Oh by the way they awarded my wife $97,000 for damages but I think the lawyers will get most of that. There is a cap of $100,000 for this type of case. There were fourteen Nurses involved and each one got their own award depending on the time involved in CM.
    Last edit by sirI on Feb 3, '07 : Reason: too explicit for the boards
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  2. 22 Comments

  3. by   **nurse**
    congratulations on the victory. Hopefully it will bring real change to the facility.
  4. by   canoehead
    Excellent.
  5. by   docnrse
    I just recently heard about the nurses winning that lawsuit. I don't know what it is like to work at the institutions that she worked at, but I have worked at RMC, New River CI, Union CI and Florida State Prison
    for several years and yes the inmates in close management and confinement are well known for "gunning" nurses. HOWEVER I have NEVER known an officer to discourage a DR, encourage the inmates behavior, or make jokes it. As a matter of fact the officers never had a problem writing a witness statement for me and have helped me write DRs. On more than one occassion I have later heard that the co's "jenny craiged" the inmate for blatanly disrecting me. After working in the Florida prison system for 7 years now most of the inmates don't even try to disrespect me. I am not friendly towards inmates; I follow policy and procedure. I am firm but fair.

    I cannot imagine how those nurses continued to work in environments that you describe, but you know what? I have had old men in nursing homes ask me to get into bed with them, I have been propositioned by 30 & 40 year old men in hospital beds on many occassions and I even had a female patient with alzheimers ask if she could perform oral sex on me!!! As a nurse you deal with the whole spectrum of humanity and you have to know how to conduct yourself as a professional and handle the challenges.

    I don't know why my experiences over 7 years in 4 different institutions has been such a positive experience, but I will always have the highest respect for the men and women who work as co's and who have always "had my back"
  6. by   TrudyRN
    It is so outrageous that the ones who are supposed to be doing the policing are the biggest liars, it seems.

    I'm glad they won, though, and I hope those who did nothing to stop this unacceptable behavior and then lied about it, to boot, get thoroughly punished.
  7. by   yellowbrickroad
    The State of Florida appealed the decision and now the Nurses wait another 1 to 2 years to see if the decision is overturned. Will justice be served? I have a suspicion that somehow this will all turn out for the worst for these Nurses. So much for our justice system! OJ proved that if you have enough money you can get away with murder. He was in our town to play Golf and was asked to leave by management by two seperate courses here.
  8. by   bighousenurse
    when we do lock-up meds at my prison and the inmates behave that way, we automatically shut the pie hole and yell "that's a refusal" and go on to the next cell. we do not tolerate foul language. our consistency with them modifies their behavior when we show up to dispense their medications.
  9. by   romiia
    Well congrads to those nurses anyway for standing up to the State!

    I have a very close friend that worked as a correctional officer..and she delt with similar behavior from the inmates!

    She was harrassed on a daily basis! And eventully had to get out of it .

    After 2 1/2 years her life was threatened, and she was hit in the face by an inmate, granted this was a close custody prison!

    the main thing is , the State will not, would not back her up!!!
    no way, no how!


    this is a great topic!!
  10. by   yellowbrickroad
    Update on Lawsuit.

    The court of appeals ordered a mediation.

    Mediation was settled and the State of Florida agreed to a settlement.

    My wife was awarded $97,000.00 when the trial ended.

    She will get a check sometime today for $53,000.00.

    The lawyers got around $600,000.00

    You can win but it took 6 years

    The money is nice but it all started because the nurses just wanted someone to listen and too take action.

    Buddy
    Last edit by yellowbrickroad on Aug 10, '07
  11. by   tbrd450
    Congrats on the lawsuit. Hopefully things changed after that. I'm curious, how was it addressed in the prison, what did the COs begin doing differently after the lawsuit? Was there a masturbation policing squad set up, or something? This "gunning" practice was clearly feable attempts by people who have lost all control over their lives to establish some sort of self-determination and hint of power. They reach, symbollicly and literally, for the one thing (penis) that they believe can never be taken away from them. Somebody on one of these prison threads once described caged men masturbating as reminding her of "monkeys at the zoo." I didn't laugh when I read that. I felt sad. I felt bad for the staff working in that environment every day and I felt sad for inmates -- what must that feel like, I thought, to be described as a "monkey in a cage?" I can certainly see how working in this environment for any length of time would certainly jade one's perspective on humanity.

    For the decent inmates in prisons (I'm sure there must be one or two) it must be a particularly humiliating existence day in and day out -- being an adult man told what to do every minute of the day, ordered to be strip searched by young COs the age of their sons and daughters, when to eat, when to sleep, when to use the toilet. Are they now given a window of time for masturbation? ... between the hours of 2 and 3 pm, second Wednesday of the month, except on leap year, etc. ??

    I'm curious, is masturbation in and of itself, not allowed in prison? Clearly, "gunning" is not. It is being done to humiliate the nurses and other female staff -- it is not about legitimate sexual release. Technically, sex (and rape) are certainly not allowed in prisons, but it seems to go on. We are learning more and more about the prevalence across the nation.

    Question for those working in corrections: Are prisoners permitted to masturbate if done in a descreet manner. How is that defined? Or, is the very act itself grounds for a disciplinary report? I suspect a normal, decent, adult male with no intention of insulting or offending anyone could find himself masturbating one lonely afternoon only to have a CO check in on him unannounced. He certainly would not be in violation of some code or something, would he? I really don't know how those long-timers and lifers face each new day in that environment; and imagine that some small percentage of the inmates in prisons are truly innocent of their crimes. No industrialized nation in the world incarcerates more people than the United States. It is all very very sad.

    I have the utmost respect for the decent COs and nurses and administrators that choose to work with this forgotten and abandoned population of mostly young males. They keep the bad guys behind bars. The stats on young male incarceration is truly astonishing. Personally, I belive prisons should be reserved for violent people (murder, rape, etc.), not traffic offenses, not welfare fraud people, not disease (addition) people, etc.

    I believe that somehow society has to begin doing something differently about reaching these lost souls -- most get out of prison, right? What anger and frustration they must take with them when they exit. It is sad.
  12. by   sadie252
    I can't believe I am reading this. What your wife and her fellow nurses experienced is what I experience every day. I work at a minimum security prison with dorm style housing except for our segregation unit. I am the seg nurse 99% of the time. There's not one day that I don't witness maturbation or penises out the cuffport. Nothing is ever done. The response I get is, "They are already in seg. That's all we can do." Some of these men are my son's age. It's disgusting and should not be allowed. I am happy they won their case.
  13. by   tbrd450
    I can't help but feel a little sad for the inmates. What reduces a human being to behave this way. I'm not really a bleeding heart liberal, .. well, maybe I am. But I know enough about psychology and socialization to know that people endure a lot of crap in life before breaking. These men are broken. The initial reaction to them is that they are not human -- they are just, well, convicts. Some have described the appearance of masturbating prisoners as "monkeys in a cage at the zoo."

    However, I happen to find that an insult to humanity. The underling tragedy goes much deeper. The problem is that the typical COs and the nurses are just doing their jobs, and want to be able to do those jobs each day in as nice an environment as possible. That is what all law abiding citizens want to do. However, some COs recognize that not much more can be done to these souls -- "they are already in ad seg (isoloation), what more can we do?" There is not much more to take from them... a blanket? a book? The whole thing is just sad.

    There are reports now coming out of Guantanamo Bay where, as it turns out, many very innocent men were detained for many years. The psychological impact on them -- these non criminals, who were driving cabs and farming one day and in a cell half way around the world the next -- has been tragic. Many are losing their minds. Now, one of the curious, consistently reported symptoms of this, for many, has been excessive self exposure and masturbation. I happen to think that confined men tend to revert inside themselves over time and struggle to find one thing, one area of their life that they can retain and demonstrate power over. I happen to think that many men walking society freely today, if they were in the same situation, would find themselves doing some of this stuff after enough time. It is psychological. As long as the female COs and nurses feel assaulted by this behavior, and react to it, it will feed their pathetic actions. It is a sign of despair. It is very sad. Whatever these inmates did to deserve their sentences, the fact remains they are living their lives now behind bars. They are told when to eat, what to eat, when to strip, when to shower, when to urinate and when to sleep. For many of the COs and nurses, it is just a job and a matter-of-fact day. Inmates are no longer in control of anything about their lives. For some, the future is just more of the same (lifers, long term inmates, etc.).

    If I worked in the environment, I think I would just pitty them, do my job, ignore their feable attempts at eliciting a response, and remind myself that these are human beings and but for the Grace of God, go I. At the end of the day, I get paid and I go home. They are home.

    If, God forbid, I should ever find myself behind the bars facing any significant length of time, just let me end things my way. If I ever findmyself there as a truly innocent victim of the system, I will likely just forgive humanity before I check out my way. If I ever become that broken and pathetic to harrass the female staff, expose myself and masturbate as a demonstration of power, then I'm already gone.

    There is new research coming out on all this stuff almost every day. The effects of confinement and isolation, in particular, are far more reaching than previously thought. Explore it, read it, and maybe even agree with some of it. At the very least it is worth reading if you want to consider working in the enviroment. And, always remember, you can work someplace else.
  14. by   sadie252
    I really don't see it that way at all. Many of these inmates are young and fresh off the street. Some get locked up in seg the first day they are in prison. I see it as more of the mob/riot mentality. One starts doing it, and the rest follow.

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