An inmate at the Century Correctional Institute was killed in an inmate-on-inmate assault last week, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.
Nelson Sanderson, 79, was pronounced deceased Aug. 17. According to DOC records, Sanderson was serving two life sentences for sex offenses involving a juvenile.
Department officials declined to comment on the circumstances or perpetrator of the attack, saying the incident is currently an active homicide investigation being conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement with assistance from the Department of Corrections Office of Inspector General.
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In a written statement, the department wrote, “the safe and secure operation of Florida’s correctional institutions is the Department of Corrections’ top priority. Every inmate death is thoroughly investigated by law enforcement and the Department’s Office of Inspector General to ensure independent oversight and absolute accountability at all levels.”
The statement continued by saying the department is committed to providing for the safety and well-being of all inmates in custody. It said inmates who cause harm to others are held accountable for their actions, which can include administrative sanctions, placement in restrictive housing and criminal charges if applicable.
The attack came just days after Department of Corrections Secretary Mark Inch sent an open letter to his charges asking for their ideas on how to curb violence in Florida’s prisons. The letter noted that the department had received a solid budget to improve its staffing and operations, but noted that the violence issue was more about “choices” than resources.
“Let’s be blunt, some of you have chosen to continue a criminal lifestyle in prison or on probation,” reads the letter, titled “Find A Solution.” “You use violence to enforce your position and game. Others appear unwilling or unable to control emotions, and resort to violence to address perceived or actual offenses. Some bring new victims to the brink of death and administer life-long scars, both physical and emotional, with no justification. Some commit murder. I don’t have to give you the stats; you see it.”
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The letter noted that many others simply wanted to serve their sentence in peace or help others. Inch announced the department is starting a new initiative for inmates serving less than one year that includes separate housing arrangements, education and mentorship.
Inch requested 10 volunteers from the prison system who would be interested in helping design the program. He also asked inmates to reach out to him about the factors that drive violence in the prison system.
“With a greater understanding of the contributing factors, and I want to hear from you about what you think those are, I believe we can bend the curve downward on the level of violence in the system,” Inch wrote. “I think we (you, the FDC staff, and volunteers) can turn this around. I believe we can fix it, so let’s fix it!”
Kevin Robinson can be reached at [email protected] or 850-435-8527.