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Surprise prison visit from Florida lawmaker uncovers issues

Rep. David Richardson showed up in late November

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Problems continue for Florida’s troubled prison system, and a surprise visit from a Florida lawmaker uncovered more issues.

Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami, has been known to pop in on prisons. But he wasn't ready for what he saw when he showed up to the Columbia Correctional Institution in late November.

"This is the worst that I have seen," Richardson said. "I saw two toilets that weren’t working properly. One of them, apparently, took about 20 flushes to get the water to go down, and so I asked the inmate how long it had been like that. He and his bunkie told me it had been that way for about two weeks."

Richardson spent the better part of last year visiting facilities all over the state.

And even if the problems might sound small, they can grow into dangerous situations.

Now, the hope is that there can be some fixes legislatively.

Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Clearwater, chairs the House Judiciary Committee, and said he knows the Department of Corrections' budget could be a big issue.

"It’s too early to say," Sprowls said. "Obviously, every time you look at a budget item, whether it’s something as important as Department of Corrections or health care or education, we have to look at global needs and find out where the resources need to go first."

Corrections officers have had to quell six riots at prisons this year.

The Department of Corrections didn’t respond to attempts to contact officials about Richardson’s claims.