Criminal justice reform under discussion after video of possible inmate abuse surfaces

Lawmakers involved in criminal justice reform say difficulties staffing state prisons is the main contributor to abuse and contraband.

A video recently posted to YouTube shows several correctional officers surrounding an inmate, who appears to be on the ground. 

You can see some of the guards throwing punches.

The five-minute clip was recorded by inmates at the Lake Correctional Facility in Clermont on a cellphone.

"I was shocked, frankly," said Florida Senator Jeff Brandes, (R) St. Petersburg, about the video.

He's the vice chair of the criminal justice committee.

"I think overall in the Department of Corrections staffing is the number one challenge we face," Brandes said.

He says hiring the right people could help solve the two major issues highlighted in the video: The guards' actions that are under investigation and the contraband cellphone used to record the encounter.

"Contraband consistently is an issue throughout the department," Brandes said.

Florida DOC data shows between 2017 and 2018, more than 9,000 cellphones were discovered behind bars.

The people wo are in charge of finding those phones start at a low wage and work long hours. 

That same year, the turnover rate among officers was almost 27 percent.

"We need to make the investments in the Department of Corrections. I've said this before, we have about 96,000 inmates, but we really fund for 86,000," Brandes said.

The inmate from the video was taken to the hospital and moved to another facility.

The DOC says the officers involved are not allowed to have contact with inmates while the investigation is underway.

What led up to the incident is still unclear.