Crime Escambia County Politics

McNesby era in the jail described as “one of the darkest periods the history of American prisons”

June 10, 2013

While the interim County Administrator George Touart and Commissioner Chairman Gene Valentino are doing everything they can to avoid paying to hire more staff at their county jail and our daily newspaper remains upset with Sheriff David Morgan for no talking with them, the rest of the nation is focusing on the DOJ report and why Civil Rights Division ever investigated the jail.

As we have written, the Escambia County Jail under former Sheriff Ron McNesby was a horrible place (“We Told You So” ). The Atlantic refers to Escambia County in its story – “One of the Darkest Periods in the History of American Prisons.”

The problem is wide spread:

First, on May 22, the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department released a report highlighting the unconstitutional conditions of a county prison in Florida. Then, on May 30th, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit alleging atrocious conditions at a state prison in Mississippi. One day later, the feds again sounded out on behalf of inmates, this time against profound abuse and neglect at a Pennsylvania prison. Finally, last week, a federal judge issued an order describing the unconstitutional “brutality” of the prison in Orleans Parish, Louisiana.

The daily newspaper focuses on Morgan because it doesn’t want to admit how it looked the other way when McNesby was in power and helped the portly sheriff deflect any real investigation into his gross mismanagement. No, they want readers to ignore their role in the cover up.

The Atlantic article describes in depth the issues with dealing with the mentally ill in our community. When Sheriff Morgan first took office in 2009, he asked that a Byrne Grant be devoted to establishing a mental health court (“How to Mend a Broken Mind“). Commissioner Marie Young, who chaired the Public Safety Committee, instead divided the money up among Pensacola State and other law enforcement agencies. The sheriff did get help with intake, but little else.

Touart and Valentino want to dismiss the DOJ suit as factually incorrect—or place all the blame on Morgan (who DOJ actually compliments in the report). Morgan’s staff has repeatedly met with county staff trying to work out a phased approach. It’s time to focus on report and find solution–what Morgan calls a “get well plan.”

Meanwhile, the rest of the nation is watching Escambia County.

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  • Citizen June 12, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    To sum this up Rick, I’m glad all of the issues are finally being addressed over there one way or the other. That place has been so understaffed for so many years, it became a joke. Those Officers have been doing the best they could with what they had to work with. They’ve had to be on call on their days off, come in to work at a minutes notice because they were short handed and all this for the pleasure of getting comp’ time that they couldn’t use to take off with. Then to make matters worse, they had to sell that time at .50 on the dollar just to get something out of it. The jail and employees have always been the last on the list to get anything. Even though it has taken the Sheriff 4 1/2 years to address the meat of the problems, at least it’s being done. My hat is off to him. I know that those employees at the Jail are very appreciative.

  • mathew phillips June 12, 2013 at 9:54 am

    Under the mcnesby office. I was handcuffed and had my ribs broken against the car for having a headlight out. No charge was filed against me.

  • citizen June 11, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    Rick, I don’t have a problem with the fact that he was the reason for the investigation. Where my problem comes in is if Morgan knew the problems existed after he took Office, why has he waited so long to act? I did read the report. The segregation issue wasn’t reported to have been cleared up until February 2013. That’s four years after Morgan took Office. The staffing issue has been a problem for the entire time he’s been in Office and hasn’t been addressed until now, Why? They mention that Morgan has made some changes to correct some of the issues, they don’t “Praise” him. That is just a little overboard. Again, I’m not a big fan of McNesby, but Morgan needs to learn accept responsibility for his own lack of actions. Still blaming some one from just about 5 years ago has gotten really old. Sorry if my opinion offends you. You are normally a man of Free Speech.

    • Rick Outzen June 12, 2013 at 7:50 am

      I spoke with Susan Watson, former head of the local ACLU. She was surprised by the segregation finding. In all her years visiting the jail, the problem never surfaced. Morgan told me that he was unaware of the policy and corrected it immediately when DOJ told him about it last fall. And that has been his approach to the DOJ, which is why they are complimentary of his efforts in the report. Also keep in mind the county kept the final report on the jail because they refused to pay the final invoice that questioned the county’s pre-trial release program. The sheriff had to make a public record request to get it.

      Morgan hasn’t dodged the report. He needs the funds to fix the jail.

  • citizen June 10, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    Rick, I have a question. President Obama is in his second term. Why is he not blaming Bush for all his issues he currently has? A hint being he’s the President, not Bush. Morgan, you and every one else need to realize these are Morgans problems, not McNesby. Morgan has been Sheriff for 5 years and all of these problems have existed for five years. If Morgan knew there were issues and hasn’t bothered correcting them, that’s his fault. Stop blaming others when he is the Sheriff. I guess he thought there were no problems to be corrected if he took no action. But as soon as this report came out, you as well as Morgan started pointing fingers in the other direction. I can see the tow of you continuing to point fingers long after Morgan is gone. It’s called accepting responsibilities, something Morgan seems not good at. I’m no fan of McNesby, but good god, get over it. Either fix YOUR problems or step down and let someone else fix them.

    • Rick Outzen June 11, 2013 at 6:41 am

      Read the report. DOJ praises Morgan’s efforts. Why did the investigation take place? Two words–Ronnie Mac.