Florida's Department of Corrections Secretary Michael Crews announced his resignation Monday, following reports over several months detailing suspicious inmate deaths, abusive corrections officers, and possible cover-ups.
Crews, age 53, who began his career as a corrections officer in 1984, was appointed Department of Corrections Secretary in 2012 by Gov. Rick Scott. But the reports of widespread corruption and the department's failure to act on some heinous accusations led to speculation of Crews' ultimately losing his job.
"I have not resigned," Crews told the Tampa Bay Times. "I am retiring from state government."
Crews' retirement comes amid allegations of corruption within the agency and his top cop, Inspector General Jeffery Beasley, failing to investigate even with whistleblowers coming forward.
Back in September, a Miami Herald report detailed how Rick Scott's Inspector General, Melinda Miguel, received an anonymous letter in late 2012 about the suspicious deaths of two inmates incarcerated in Florida.
But instead of opening an investigation, she turned the letter over to the DOC. It, in turn conducted a cursory review. By the time the letter got to Scott's office, the investigation was closed.
The Herald report says the anonymous letter was received in October 25, 2012, and detailed the gruesome death of Randall Jordan-Aparo, who was held at Franklin Correctional Institution in 2010, and of Darren Rainey, held at Dade Correctional in 2012.
The letter, written by a "high-ranking'' DOC employee and postmarked from Orlando, tells of how Jordan-Aparo was taken to solitary confinement after acting up. There he was gassed twice by corrections officers. The inmate was later found dead in the cell.
Another part of the letter, which has been redacted, talks of another "ugly" death and cover-up. The Herald reported on three former employees of the psychiatric unit at Dade Correctional coming forward to say that staff at the facility was tormenting and abusing mentally ill inmates.
The report detailed the death of inmate Rainey, who was left in confinement in a hot scalding shower for two hours.
At the time, Scott's office sent out a news release calling the Herald report misleading.
"The Miami Herald misled on the role of the Chief Inspector General (CIG) in criminal proceedings, and underreported the role of law enforcement in investigations," Scott's statement read. "The CIG has no law enforcement authority and is purely an administrative entity. Administrative entities do not interfere with law enforcement investigations."
For his part, Crews promised changes across the board and sent a memo to all state prison employees saying that those who commit crimes working for the DOC would be fired. Crews did eventually fire a prison warden for his handling of an investigation into the Rainey death.
In August, Crews announced that more than two dozen guards were also fired, and he enacted reforms. But the Tampa Bay Times reported that an investigation by a criminal justice think-tank found that the reforms were not enough to change a DOC that had become overly dangerous and deadly to inmates.
For now, deputy secretary Tim Cannon will serve as interim secretary.