Family Sues Fla. Prison Over Inmate’s Death

     (CN) – The family of a woman found dead in her Ocala, Fla., prison cell claims in court that their loved one died as result of the abusive staff, improper medical care and inhumane conditions maintained by the state department of corrections.
     Latandra Ellington, a mother of four, was sentenced to 22 months in Florida State Prison on Oct. 17, 2013 after being convicted on charges of grand theft and fraudulent use of personal identification.
     In a complaint filed in Marion County, Fla. on September 18, her family says Ellington was transferred to the Lowell Correctional Facility in Ocala, Fla., where she was allegedly threatened by a guard at the prison.
     Ellington had previously complained about one of correctional officers at the facility, Sergeant Patrick Quercioli, and sent her family letters detailing his threats.
     When the family called the Lowell Correctional Institute worried about Ellington’s safety, she was moved to the confinement unit. The following day, she was found dead in her cell.
     Plaintiff Kawana Walker, Ellington’s sister, claims when the body was found, it had “excessive amounts” of bruising. In addition, an autopsy revealed Ellington had “toxic amounts” of the blood pressure medication Amlodipine in her system, the complaint says.
     Ellington’s family faults the Department of Corrections, which oversees state prisons, for failing to act on reports that “employees, including its assistant warden and/or corrections officers, were using excessive force, being sexually inappropriate with female inmates, and/or making threats of physical violence towards the inmates.”
     Earlier this year, the Department of Corrections fired Lowell’s assistant warden after an investigation found he acted inappropriately around female inmates.
     The lawsuit comes as Florida’s prisons are under scrutiny for a record number of deaths in 2014 — many of those under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
     Last November, the estate of a mentally-disabled Miami man sued the Department of Corrections, two officers and the private healthcare company Corizon after officers forced the inmate to stay in scalding hot water for hours. The man was found dead in the shower with his skin peeling off.
     The Florida Department of Law Enforcement closed the investigation into Ellington’s death earlier this year. According to the report obtained by National Public Radio, video surveillance and interviews with her cell mate did not turn up evidence of a beating. The report states Ellington died of natural causes.
     Walker is represented by the Kimberly M. Kohn of the Tampa firm Goudie & Kohn.
     A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections could not be reached by publication.

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