Why is Jeremiah Tatum in Florida’s Solitary Confinement? (2017)

rashid-2013-self-portrait1You’ve likely never heard of Jeremiah Tatum or “JT”. We met here in Florida State Prison’s (FSP) solitary confinement or Close Management (CM) unit.

He is an outspoken opponent of the abuse by prison officials, a tendency which officials find intolerable. In fact, this tendency led to a series of abuses that landed JT in solitary for several years, where he’s been abused even further.

Abuse like JT’s is common place, but his case stands out because it is well-documented and his mistreatment continues although he was exonerated of wrongdoing.

Not only should the widespread use of solitary confinement in Amerikan prisons, (which is known torture and is directed in particular against people of color and the poor), be invoked as one of many prevalent human rights abuses committed by U.S. officials, but JT’s situation should be pointed out by readers whenever they hear U.S. officials self-righteously condemn the objectionable human rights records of countries they dislike.

Guards Lie to Justify Assault

JT entered the Florida Department of Corruption (FDC) on April 16, 2014. He was assigned to the Northwest Florida Reception Center. While there he witnessed a climate where guards terrorized prisoners, especially Blacks and Latinos.

Physical abuse was meted out with such open impunity that many prisoners were reluctant to leave their cells, even to go to meals. This because, for example, while walking to the chow hall, prisoners were randomly pulled aside by groups of guards demanding to know why their hair wasn’t perfectly groomed, or under some other arbitrary, often invented or exaggerated pretext or petty rule violation. The targeted prisoners were then brutally beaten and gassed in full view of others.

On August 5, 2014, a captain James Kirkland targeted several newly arrived prisoners who had no property. He made up a lie that they each were using their personal property to block their cell doors, to speciously justify gassing them inside their cells.

JT witnessed and spoke out against this abuse. In turn Kirkland had him gassed too and a disciplinary report (DR) fabricated as justification, claiming that JT had reached out of his cell door and struck a sergeant, then attempted to grab Kirkland, while they were involved in the other uses of force.

According to FDC protocol on use of gas, JT had to be brought out of his cell and taken to a shower to be decontaminated. But Kirkland had further abuse in store for him.

He conspired with the guards who were to escort JT to the shower in handcuffs and leg shackles, to act like he spit on them and thereupon to slam him face first to the floor and jump on him. Since guards commit and get away with this sort of abuse as everyday business, they did this although a portable audio-video camera was trained on JT the entire time.

JT Attacked While FDC Under Scrutiny

Coincidentally, JT’s abuse happened just when FDC was under public scrutiny because of media reports of extensive abuses and killings of prisoners and cover-ups by FDC officials. These reports were prompted by complaints of the aggrieved family members.

As a result, the FDC Secretary Mike Crews initiated damage control measures of selectively disciplining and investigating guards, resulting in a handful of prosecutions for minor abuse crimes.

The six guards who set JT up got caught up in this campaign to repair the FDC’s and Crews’s public image. As Florida’s Times-Union newspaper reported on September 13, 2014:

“Authorities arrested five prison guards for allegedly stomping on a handcuffed and shackled inmate at the Northwest Florida Prison last month and a sixth—a captain— also is charged with taking part in the attack and lying about it….

“The Wednesday arrests came less than a month after Department of Corrections Secretary Mike Crews initiated a statewide house-cleaning prompted by news reports that officials had covered up the deaths of at least two inmates and amid accusations of wide-spread brutality within the prison system….

“According to the affidavits about the Aug. 5 incident at the Chipley institution, the five prison workers were taking inmate Jeremiah Tatum, 31, to the cold-water shower after he had been gassed with chemical agents….

“In sworn statements to inspectors, four of the guards said that Kirkland told them he ‘wanted Tatum taken to the ground’ as the inmate was led to the decontamination shower shortly before 11 p.m.

“‘Captain Kirkland would make an audible noise and/or state that Inmate Tatum spit on him. The escorting officers were to then force Tatum to the ground,’ the complaint reads. All five later said that Tatum never spit on anyone….

With the exposure and arrest of the guards for their assault and fabrications against JT, the falsified DR against him was overturned. But none of this was done out of justice to him or otherwise.

As noted, it was part of a pretentious campaign to make it appear to the public that FDC officials were being held accountable for abusive and murderous misconduct, which is anything but true. As Randall Berg, the executive director of the Florida Justice Institute, stated of Mike Crews’s damage control gestures: “The culture hasn’t changed….” “Department leaders have for too long ignored a multi-generational pattern of abuse….”

Clearly the Culture Hasn’t Changed

FDC administrators at the highest levels have made sure that JT remained in solitary for years after he was absolved of all wrongdoing, and it was proven that the guards who had him put in solitary lied and jumped on him.

On top of this, because of the firings, prosecutions and criminal convictions of those guards, JT has been retaliated against by other guards while in solitary. First he was denied numerous meals (literally starved) in solitary at Santa Rosa Correctional Institution, then he was jumped on again several times by guards here at FSP.

If JT’s case isn’t evidence of the fascist nature and fundamental corruption of Amerika and it’s criminal in injustice system, why is he still in solitary confinement?

Dare to struggle, Dare to win!
All power to the people!


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