News Cast 2/25

News Cast for February 25th:

Florida prisons face crisis

Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Mark Inch said he will resist closing prisons this year despite lower inmate populations and a projected $2 billion state budget deficit.

The pandemic has cut the inmate population by 14,000 in the past year.

Many of the inmates who were sentenced to prison were held longer at county jails like Okeechobee putting stress on local facilities.

The prisons remain understaffed and 30 are deemed at emergency staffing levels.

“We are among the smaller group of state corrections agencies that continue to take inmates from county jail.  We did so at a reduced rate of 500 inmates every three weeks.  This was sufficient for some jails but not all.  As of January we are at a more normal rate thanks to rapid testing,” Inch added.

Inch admits it is harder to recruit and hire corrections guards.

“We are a system in crisis. Defining what collapse looks like is a pretty broad definition.  The cautionary tale of what happened in New Mexico is shown in the book the Devil’s Butcher Shop.   The state lost a prison for 36 hours.  That is a terrible thing and that could happen to us.”

Bengal avoids jail time in Okeechobee disappearance case

A pro football player avoided jail time for allegedly battering a man who left his father in the woods picking berries in a remote part of Okeechobee County.

Collier County Court Records show Mackensie Alexander, 27, was ordered to attend anger management classes, perform 24 hours of community service, pay court costs and undergo a mental health evaluation.

He was accused of attacking the victim at a home in Immokalee after the victim left his father Jean Odney Alexander in August.

His father was missing for several days before being located at the Kissimmee Prairie State Preserve Park in August.

Court records show that Alexander is being sued in civil court by the Immokalee man who was battered in this case.

Two jailed after five mile chase with deputies

Tyler Hampton, 28, was charged with methamphetamine trafficking and Shane Pahl, 29 was charged with fleeing and attempting to elude after a chase with Okeechobee County Sheriff Deputies on January 28.

Hampton was arrested this week on a warrant charging him with possessing over 18 grams of methamphetamine when Corrections Officers searched him at the Okeechobee County Jail.

An arrest report stated the deputy spotted a 2004 Ford convertible traveling westbound in the east bound lane of the 3400 block of US Highway 441 Southeast.

The vehicle originally pulled over but then drove off at a high rate of speed allegedly entering residential areas at speeds over 80 miles per hour.

The report said the vehicle drove through two front yards, a back yard, and struck and damaged a fire hydrant.