- Union Correctional Institution
Union Correctional Institution, formerly referred to as “Florida State Prison”, “Raiford Prison” and “State Prison Farm” is located in
Raiford, Florida. Opened in 1913, the prison underwent large scale renovation and restructure in 1961 splitting into the present day Union Correctional Institution and Florida State Prison. The prison has a maximum capacity of 2,172 prisoners, and as of September 2008 housed around 2,100. The institution has undergone large changes, both system and structural, since the opening almost 100 years ago. State Prison Farm was well known as one of the last prisons in America to abolish Convict Lease, in 1923. [ [http://www.dc.state.fl.us/facilities/region2/213.html] ]
"State Prison Farm"
Florida’s largest and oldest correctional institution was established in 1913 to house infirm inmates who could not be leased to private businesses. [http://www.dc.state.fl.us/facilities/region2/213.html] The initial population of the prison was close to 600 inmates, both male and female. [Bradford County Telegraph, February 14,1919] Given the official name of Raiford Penitentiary, the facility was referred to almost exclusively as “State Prison Farm,” as convicts’ duties routinely included farming the 18,000 acre prison property. The population at the facility remained fairly constant during these early years; the number of inmates needed for the farm would dictate the initial capacity for the prison. In January 1919, Captain J.S Blitch was appointed warden and attempted to bring about positive change to the facility. The inmates were rewarded for their labors in the field with theatrical productions, and weekly baseball games.  However, continued reports of guards beating inmates soured the positive image that Blitch was trying to publicize. Brutal treatment of inmates in the convict lease system would lead to the abandonment of convict lease in 1923. By the early 1920’s, the large State Prison Farm property consisted of approximately 4,000 acres under cultivation, kept in large part by the prisoners. Also on the property existed a shoe factory that made 10 pairs of shoes per day. Living conditions in the prison were very poor. The women especially lived in horrid conditions, housed separately from the men in overcrowded, wooden dormitories. [http://www.dc.state.fl.us/facilities/region2/213.html]
Race was a major source of conflict in the early years of the State Prison Farm. A study conducted in 1928 of the 1,101 received prisoners show that 674 (61%) of the total male inmates were of color and 427 (39%) were white. Segregation existed in all aspects of prison life, from working areas to hospitals to bathrooms. Eighty-Three percent of executions at Raiford were of people of color, despite the fact that a much greater percentage of the Florida population was white. ["Handbook of American Prisons and Reformarories" 1929. Garrett, Paul]
"Florida State Prison"
Following the abolition of convict lease and the subsequent increase in the inmate population, the prison structure changed. In 1927, a license tag factory was constructed, adding to the already extensive production line of the prison. The Main Housing Unit (“The Rock") was erected in 1928, a major step in the process of increasing the prison population. This building was kept in use until court order in 1985. (“The Rock” remained at the prison site unused until demolition in 1999). By 1932, the inmate population was over 2,000, and a mess hall, auditorium and library had been added. The expanding prison also added a laundry and shirt factory around this time. Shortly after, in 1935, a maximum security building was constructed, the “Flat Top.” This proved vital in the expansion of the center, as from this stage forward the prison would remain a maximum security facility. This was also the year the “West Unit” was built to house female offenders which remained in use until 1954 when the Florida Correctional institution in Ocala was opened and all the female inmates were transferred from Raiford to the new facility (The West Unit remained in use as a medical facility until 1968.) In 1955, the “East Unit,” a new maximum security facility was completed. [http://www.dc.state.fl.us/facilities/region2/213.html]
Union Correctional Institution
The East Unit became a separate institution in 1961, renamed Florida State Prison. Construction would continue on this site until 1972. The original prison site became known as Union Correctional Institution, as it is still known today. A new Death Row was constructed in 1992, coinciding with the relocation of inmates from the State Prison next door. [http://www.oranous.com/florida/Raiford.html] The present-day facility still uses many of the older buildings, some since before the prison split in 1961. Union C.I. remains a maximum-security prison today, still one of the primary prisons in Florida. The prison has an eclectic range of facilities, from hearing impaired and elderly accommodation to designated confinement space. The prison also has a variety of living residences, such as cell units, house units and self contained houses. [http://www.dc.state.fl.us/facilities/region2/213.html]
A 1999 report by the St. Petersburg Times took a detailed look into issues of racism and diversity in the Union Correctional Institution. The report stated that more than half of the inmates were black, and more than 75% of the guards were white. This alone was grounds for racial tension. Several officers and inmates reported a clique of racist guards, distinguishable by the cord key chains they would wear. Problems turned out to be far more significant, however, after a review of public records and court files revealed over 100 black agency employees were involved in law suits alleging rampant racism and discrimination in the prison system. Perhaps worst of these allegations, a black recreation manager once arrived at his desk to find across his bulletin board the letters “KKK”. The report also included the story of a 1993 incident; inmates on death-row were exposed to a man wearing a KKK-style white sheet walking by their cells. [http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/sptimes/access/47420794.html?dids=47420794:47420794&FMT=FT&FMTS=CITE:FT&date=Dec+22%2C+1999&author=&pub=St.+Petersburg+Times&edition=&startpage=20.A&desc=Diversify+Corrections+Series%3A+EDITORIALS]
Oba Chandler- Convicted of a 1989 murder of an Ohio family,has been on death row since 1994. Are on the Florida short-list for executions.
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