Column: Keys Disease

Florida really has its priorities screwed up.

In a state where fetal pigs have more constitutional protection than do Keys homeowners and mentally ill inmates, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Still, some recent revelations have me shaking my head even more than usual.

Attorney General Pam Bondi is sparing no expense in “protecting” Florida’s residents from marriage equality. Her office announced this week that it would defend the state’s 2008 constitutional amendment banning gay marriage against two lawsuits filed in Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties. Her office is undertaking this endeavor seemingly totally oblivious to the way that one federal court after another is overturning similar state bans.

U.S. District Judge Richard Young is one of 14 federal judges who have ruled in favor of marriage equality since the Supreme Court’s landmark decision to strike down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act a year ago. In his opinion on overturning Indiana’s same-sex marriage ban, he wrote, “The court has never witnessed a phenomenon throughout the federal court system as is presented with this issue. In less than a year, every federal district court to consider the issue has reached the same conclusion in thoughtful and thorough opinions – laws prohibiting the celebration and recognition of same-sex marriages are unconstitutional. It is clear that the fundamental right to marry shall not be deprived to some individuals based solely on the person they choose to love.”

As Pam Bondi tilts at windmills, she continues to ignore real human rights violations occurring in the criminal justice system right under her nose. One of the worst instances is the June 2012 death of mentally ill inmate Darren Rainey, who was allegedly murdered by guards in the psych ward at the Dade Correctional Institution. Rainey was serving a two-year sentence for drug possession. The guards had rigged a “special” shower for inmates they wanted to punish, and they left Rainey to suffer in scalding 180º water for hours. Large chunks of his skin peeled off his body and were left on the shower floor and later cleaned up by a fellow inmate. A nurse at the institution’s infirmary said his body temperature was so high it couldn’t be measured with a standard medical thermometer.

Department of Corrections’ Inspector General Jeffery Beasley opened a case on the Rainey death, and then closed it in 2012, seemingly thinking the incident was resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. (The case was reopened last week after the Miami Herald announced its investigation into the matter.) According to the Herald, Miami-Dade Medical Examiner Bruce Hyma still has not released the autopsy two years later because, he said, he needs the results of the police investigation in order to “interpret” his findings.

I’m not exactly sure what that investigation will reveal further about an inmate who was scalded to death by malicious and sadistic guards.

There is further evidence that the Department of Corrections tried to cover up the incident. It’s gotten so bad that the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, Amnesty International, the Florida Council of Churches, and many other human rights organizations composed a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder urging the Justice Department to intervene. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, it seems, has her hands full with same-sex marriage.

In other Flori-duh news, it seems that Citizens Insurance wants to reduce rates to nearly 70 percent of its policyholders. Unfortunately, none of them live in Monroe County. Local policyholders will see increases up to 8 percent. It’s another slap-in-the-face move by the Citizens Board of Governors, and the ultimate decision is still up to state regulators. It’s very important that affected Keys property owners do what they can to help FIRM (Fair Insurance Rates for Monroe – help us keep our rates affordable. Otherwise, in this state governed by people with their priorities so skewed, we are so screwed.

John Bartus is a singer/songwriter, former Mayor of the City of Marathon, and President of the Rotary Club of Marathon. John performs Friday at Hawks Cay resort. See John solo Sundays at the Lorelei starting at noon, Wednesdays at Hawks Cay resort, Thursdays at Sparky’s Landing, and with Storm Watch at Sombrero Beach on July 4th!

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