Saturday, July 30, 2011


This is the sort of news that drives me just about over the edge.  The post comes from Prison Culture.

To the State of Florida, Eric Perez’s Life Isn’t Even Worth $5,000

I read with rage this morning the story of the death of a young man who was detained in Florida on a low-level marijuana charge and died in custody “after unsuccessfully seeking medical attention for several hours.” The department of juvenile justice promised to pay $5,000 towards his funeral expenses but at the last minute the CFO of the State of Florida pulled back the check.

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater is refusing to pay the funeral expenses for a teenager who died in state custody after unsuccessfully seeking medical attention for several hours.
Juvenile justice administrators had offered to pay up to $5,000 in funeral costs to bury 18-year-old Eric Perez, who died at the West Palm Beach detention center on July 10. But after cutting a check to the Tillman Funeral Home, Florida’s chief financial officer ordered that the check be destroyed, records show.

According to the Miami Herald:
Eric, who turned 18 eight days before he died, was stopped June 29 while riding his bicycle because the bike did not have a night light, sources told The Herald. During the stop, officers found a small amount of marijuana on the teen. Because he already was on probation for a years-old robbery charge, Eric was sent to the detention center. He was five feet, eight inches tall, and weighed 120 pounds. A picture of the teen attached to the log shows a youthful-looking kid with a thick Afro and his mouth partly agape. He had a tattoo on his right arm, and was missing a tooth.
At admission, Eric told lockup staff he had smoked marijuana three hours earlier, “one hit.”
Here’s some background about the death of Eric Perez from the Miami Herald:
When Eric Perez died Sunday, July 10 at the Palm Beach County juvenile jail, there were no doctors or nurses on duty, according to the nurse jailers say they tried in vain to reach.
“Nobody works there at night,” Diana Heras said of lockup medical staff. “There is no state funding for night nurses for any night of the week. They do not have a nurse who works at that … facility on the night shift, and they do not work weekends.”
Here’s still more on the tragic story of the young man’s unnecessary death:
Some of Eric’s final agonizing hours — which began as early as 1:30 a.m. and ended with his 8:09 a.m. death — were captured on lockup videotape, DJJ administrators have confirmed. Walters’ agency won’t release the video depicting Eric’s final hours, but sources say it doesn’t bode well for the lockup staff.
The footage, sources told The Miami Herald, depicts Eric’s limp body being dragged on a cot or mat from his room to a common area of the lockup and then back again — a sign that guards knew he was terribly ill and were worried he would infect other lockup detainees
As you read the details of this incident, I dare you not to become progressively more enraged by the minute.
On Sunday, July 10, beginning around 1:30 a.m., Eric complained he had a severe headache, and began hallucinating that an imaginary person was on top of him. He had been throwing up for hours as guards sought “guidance” from a different nurse who did not answer her phone. Records say lockup supervisors and the facility’s superintendent instructed staff not to call 911.
There is much to say about this sorry episode. First, Eric Perez should NOT have been in detention at all. Why are we detaining 18 year olds for marijuana possession? This is another example of the futility and destructiveness of the so-called “War on Drugs.” It is shameful.
Next, the state is claiming that juvenile justice budget cuts did not contribute to the young man’s death. This claim is patently ridiculous on its face. One of the Herald articles quotes Cathy Craig-Myers, who heads the Florida Juvenile Justice Association, saying that “DJJ’s current spending plan, which took effect July 1, contains $77 million fewer dollars than last year’s budget.” How can these types of cuts not eventually have an impact on the care of youth in custody? There was no night nurse on duty in the facility for God’s sake. Come on.
Finally, the state owes this young man and his family a lot more than $5,000. I hope that they are sued for millions.

About The Author

prison culture

I have been an anti-violence activist and organizer since my teen years. I recently founded and currently direct a grassroots organization in Chicago dedicated to eradicating youth incarceration. My anti-prison activism is an extension of my work as an anti-violence organizer.

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