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After three years of investigation and deliberations, the state of Florida has finally reached a settlement agreement worth $800,000 with three prison investigators. The settlement will finally clear the name of the state prison system after whistleblowers Doug Glisson, Aubrey Land, and John Ulm came forward with evidence that an inmate had been gassed to death by prison guards. The department claimed Randall Jordan-Aparo died from “natural causes”, but investigations painted a much different picture. The inmate’s family is now pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court.
While the prison agency refused to admit to any allegations, it did ultimately agree to pay the whistleblowers a settlement, drop internal investigations against them, and provide compensation for lost wages related to demotion. In return, the whistleblowers agreed to leave the agency. The three men had faced a long and arduous battle, where they were refused whistleblower protection and even faced internal investigations on made up charges. Glisson said the prison paid the settlement to keep the whistleblowers quiet, effectively doing damage control. “They really didn’t want this to go to a jury trial,” he said.
On the same day that the settlement was filed, there was nearly a riot at the Franklin Correctional Prison. This marked the fourth quelled riot this year. It’s evidence of a growing problem in the prison system. According to insiders, the prisons are grossly understaffed, putting everyone at serious risk.
While the settlement may bring an end to three years of drama, it doesn’t offer any long-term solutions for a broken prison system. In fact, attorneys said that most of the legal headache could have been avoided completely if the agency would have just stopped retaliation measures towards Glisson, Land, and Ulm last year. The officers had offered to drop charges if the state would agree to find them different jobs in other state agencies and remove them from investigations, however the agency wouldn’t relent. In an effort to help the whistleblowers, the attorneys even offered to waive the fees except for actual costs, estimated at around $25,000, but the Florida agency refused.
“Hopefully, this settlement will bring an end to three years of pain and frustration for the whistleblowers involved in this case,” said personal injury attorney Christopher Ligori of Tampa. “It’s always difficult to speak out when you see a state agency making an error, but the bravery of whistleblowers keeps the prisons accountable for providing proper care to inmates.”
The family of Randall Jordan-Aparo is still grasping for answers and they hope to get justice for their loved one through a recently filed lawsuit. After reports that the inmate died gasping in an isolation cell, wearing nothing but white boxer shorts and clinging to a paperback Bible, the family is angry. Reports show that guards fired nine separate blasts of poison gas into the inmate’s cell, effectively torturing him until his last breath. Actions like this is unacceptable in the Florida prison system and it’s important that officials take action on a federal level to hold the prison accountable for its actions.