Prison

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In a move that could affect thousands of Florida inmates, attorneys representing disabled prisoners and the Department of Corrections have settled a lawsuit accusing the state of discriminating against prisoners who are deaf, blind or confined to wheelchairs.

Tomas Ayuso for Reveal

Anyone who serves time for a federal crime will end up in what prison experts say is the best-run system in the country: the Federal Bureau of Prisons. But if you're not a U.S. citizen, you could end up in one of 11 facilities that don't have to follow the same rules – and are run by private companies instead of the government.

This hour of Reveal investigates medical negligence in this parallel private prison system for immigrants. We also expose the shift in criminal justice policy that helped fill up these prisons.

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Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones plans to bar the use of chemical agents on prisoners with histories of respiratory ailments and is changing procedures to reduce the use of force on severely mentally ill inmates.

The changes to the policy regarding inmates with respiratory ailments, such as asthma, come after reports of at least two prisoners dying as a result of complications from preexisting breathing-related medical conditions. The inmates had been gassed by guards.

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For more than 20 years, the state of Florida and lawyers representing prisoners wrangled over inmates' health care, resulting in nearly a decade of federal-court oversight of health services in the Department of Corrections.

Now, lawyers who represented prisoners in the mid-1970s say conditions may be worse today than they were when attorneys for Michael Costello, an inmate at Florida State Prison, convinced a federal judge that inadequate health care amounted to a violation of Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

About a fifth of Florida’s inmate population is elderly. A new report warns as the state’s aging prison population continues to rise, officials will soon be dealing with a severe strain on Florida’s budget.

The Florida Department of Corrections characterizes elderly prisoners as those over the age of 50. According to a Florida TaxWatch report, the average health care costs for elderly prisoners is about 11,000 dollars a year—nearly four times what it costs for younger inmates.

Rhema Thompson / WJCT

At age 17, Antjuan Kimbrough considered himself worthless. With two kids, he had no diploma, no father-figure and no future.