Ninety Years Old, Deaf, and in the Hole in a Florida Prison – Solitary Watch
Elliott “Bud” Yorke, who is incarcerated at Florida’s Columbia Correctional Institution Annex at Lake City, was sent to solitary confinement on June 24. According to prison officials, he was placed in isolation for his own protection after corrections officers observed injuries suggesting that he had been assaulted. Aside from being two months shy of his 90th birthday, Yorke is deaf and non-verbal, communicating primarily through writing. He uses a wheeled walker to move around.
Update 7/24/18: Elliott Yorke died on 6/28/16 at Northwest Florida Reception Center, not at Columbia Correctional Institution Annex. Although this provides a reason to believe that he was finally given his medications, provided with appropriate diapers and allowed use of his walker and hearing aid, it doesn’t really make a strong case to believe he received anything other than a change of address … Florida Department of Corrections medical facilities can be as inhumane as their other facilities. If his sentences were legitimate (so many in Florida aren’t), Elliott Yorke belonged in prison until age and/or infirmity neutralized his ability to do further harm. And not a day longer. It isn’t uncommon for sound ethics and sound economics to align, but we haven’t enough ethical politicians in Tallahassee to have the connection be noticeable. Had Governor Rick Scott NOT destroyed Charlie Crist’s inexpensive and fair felon rights restoration policy, there would have been millions more in the prison budge every year. Corrections officers could have been given a substantial pay raise, and dangerous short-staffing could have ended. Pros could have been attracted, turnover would have decreased, and so would inmate abuse.
Floridians will be voting on whether they want our constitution amended to more closely match Charlie Crist’s felon rights restoration policy. It will pass if Floridians are made to understand how many millions Rick Scott’s New Jim Crow policies are costing us annually, but passing an amendment in Florida never guarantees due diligence from our legislature … the mess they’re made of Everglades restoration and implementing medical marijuana are just two examples. Here’s hoping that one or more Florida candidates for governor will commit right now to convening the Cabinet/Clemency Board in January 2019 for the purpose of reinstating Crist’s felon rights restoration policy – regardless of whether the amendment passes or fails – to cut our corrupt legislature off at the pass. It’s sound ethics and sound economics, and it will end the ghastly torturing of frail ill inmates like Elliott Yorke.
Some of the abject misery Mr. Yorke is enduring in protective solitary confinement is due to Florida Department of Corrections’ ridiculously inflexible rules: although nearly 90, he isn’t allowed use of his walker in his cell – which he can’t walk without – because it could be turned into a weapon. The same rule is being applied to a device that could help him hear, at least a little.
Some of Mr. Yorke’s misery has nothing to do with rules, and everything to do with the FDC’s failure to hire qualified corrections officers. Mr. Yorke’s skin allergy medication has been withheld. He’s being supplied with diapers that it’s known that he is allergic to, instead of being allowed alternate supplies previously available to him.
Reportedly, FDC has approved Mr. Yorke’s transfer to corrections facility that can accommodate his disabilities.
But there’s no room for him.
Until there is, Mr Yorke is supposed to simply suffer through being denied reasonable exemptions from the rules that would allow him be mobile within his cell and perhaps be able to communicate without writing things down … along with being denied whatever else the unqualified corrections officers decide to deprive him of.
This isn’t how I want my tax dollars spent.
When an inmate becomes so disabled as to be no further threat to society, I want him compassionately released. I don’t want to help fund cruel and unusual punishment for the inevitable event of aging, nor do I want to help fund large settlements for elder abuse that wouldn’t happen if FDC’s rules were reasonably flexible a/k/a ADA compliant, and if qualified corrections officers were on the job.
Vengeance isn’t justice, and vengeance costs a helluva lot more than justice. It’s time we elected a governor that can tell the difference between the two, instead of reelecting a governor who can’t … a governor that would swoop down on guard-on-inmate abuse so fast that the officers wouldn’t know what hit them until they were arraigned.
Until we have such a governor, please sign and share petitions that may serve to improve Rick Scott’s behavior. Thank you.