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Top 7 Worst Prisons in Florida State

Florida is home to some of the most notorious and dangerous prisons in the United States. Overcrowding, gang violence, poor medical care, and crumbling facilities plague many of Florida’s correctional institutions. Here is an overview of the worst prisons in the Sunshine State based on violence, living conditions, lack of programming, and history of abuse.

Union Correctional Institution (Raiford, FL)

Union Correctional Institution, located in Raiford, is the largest maximum security prison in Florida. With a capacity for 3,000 inmates, this prison is extremely overcrowded with rampant violence. There are high levels of tension and assaults between rival gangs housed at Union. Weapons are prevalent, despite the maximum security precautions.

The facilities at Union are decrepit, with issues like mold and corroded pipes. Air conditioning often does not work in large parts of the prison. Medical care is bare bones, with only two part-time doctors. Mental health services are virtually non-existent.

Solitary confinement units like administrative confinement (solitary for punishment) and close management (solitary for security) are frequently used at Union. Inmates can spend years locked down for 23 hours a day in cramped, windowless cells. This isolation causes lasting psychological damage.

Why is Union Correctional Institution one of Florida’s worst prisons?

  • Severe overcrowding leads to tension and violence
  • Prevalence of rival gangs and lack of control over contraband weapons
  • Very poor facilities with mold, corrosion, lack of air conditioning
  • Minimal medical and mental health care
  • Widespread use of solitary confinement for years at a time

Dade Correctional Institution (Florida City, FL)

Located near Florida City, Dade Correctional Institution has one of the highest levels of violence in the Florida prison system. Assaults with homemade knives are a regular occurrence. Gangs openly control the recreation yards and cell blocks.

With nearly 1,500 inmates, Dade Correctional is extremely overcrowded. Cells meant for a single inmate regularly house two or three people. The crowded conditions exacerbate tensions and make it nearly impossible for weaker inmates to stay safe.

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Medical care at Dade Correctional is dangerously lacking. Basic medical requests often go ignored for months on end. The facilities are crumbling, with rust, leaks, and vermin infestations. Rehabilitation programming is very limited for a prison housing so many inmates.

Why is Dade Correctional Institution one of the worst prisons in Florida?

  • One of the highest levels of violence in the FL prison system
  • Gangs openly control blocks and yards
  • Severely overcrowded cells housing up to 3 inmates
  • Lengthy delays for urgent medical care
  • Deteriorating physical conditions from rust, leaks, and vermin
  • Very limited rehabilitation programming

Florida State Prison (Raiford, FL)

As one of the first state prisons built in Florida, Florida State Prison no longer lives up to modern standards. The maximum security prison houses over 2,000 of the state’s most violent inmates. It is known for extreme violence, fatal stabbings, and deadly use of force by guards.

Medical and mental healthcare at Florida State Prison are woefully inadequate. Combined with the oppressive conditions, lack of programming, and tense environment, the lack of care leads many inmates to attempt suicide. Access to legal resources and attorneys is also very limited for prisoners.

The facilities themselves are antiquated with little climate control in housing units. Cell blocks are falling apart, filled with mold and mildew. Staffing shortages plague the prison, making it difficult to maintain even basic security and order.

Why is Florida State Prison one of the worst prisons in Florida?

  • Houses very violent inmates yet has inadequate security
  • Multiple stabbings, fatalities, and use of force incidents
  • Inadequate mental and medical healthcare
  • High rates of suicide attempts due to conditions
  • 70+ year old facilities with poor climate control and cell blocks
  • Staffing shortages make it hard to maintain security

Apalachee Correctional Institution (Sneads, FL)

Apalachee Correctional Institution in Sneads has faced consistent criticism for inmate abuse, corruption, and poor conditions. An inmate was beaten to death by guards in 2017, yet the Department of Corrections closed the case without any charges filed.

The facilities are dilapidated, with units lacking hot water and holes in the walls and ceiling. During cold months, inmates have no way to get warm. Healthcare needs are neglected, sometimes with fatal outcomes.

Gang activity at Apalachee is rampant, with staff unable to control the influx of drugs and contraband. Weapons are readily available. Stabbings and homicides do occur, yet the administration fails to provide extra security measures.

Why is Apalachee Correctional Institution one of the worst prisons in Florida?

  • History of abuse and corruption, including inmate beaten to death by guards
  • Very poor physical facilities with no hot water, holes in walls, etc.
  • Healthcare needs often neglected, sometimes resulting in fatalities
  • Widespread gang activity and contraband weapons
  • Stabbings and homicides occur yet no added security measures

Santa Rosa Correctional Institution (Milton, FL)

Though it is a lower security prison with a minimum custody annex, Santa Rosa has developed a reputation for violence and gang activity. Since 2018, there have been 4 homicides at Santa Rosa. Dangerous prisoners have been transferred there from tougher institutions like Florida State Prison.

Living conditions at Santa Rosa are very poor. Plumbing leaks have caused mold infestations and collapsing ceilings in parts of the prison. Medical care is limited and mental health services are severely lacking. Solitary confinement is used frequently, yet does little to curb violence.

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With inadequate staffing, the movement of violent inmates to Santa Rosa has overwhelmed security and promotional programming. Stabbings and assaults occur regularly both within the main complex and minimum custody annex.

Why is Santa Rosa Correctional Institution one of Florida’s worst prisons?

  • 4 homicides since 2018 despite lower security classification
  • Dangerous inmates transferred from tougher institutions
  • Very poor living conditions from leaks, mold, collapsing ceilings
  • Minimal medical care and mental health services
  • Rampant violence, stabbings, and assaults continue despite solitary
  • Understaffing for the dangerous inmates transferred here

Everglades Correctional Institution (Miami, FL)

Everglades Correctional Institution is a massive complex with 5 different facilities housing around 5,500 inmates. Gangs dominate the large recreation yards where they openly sell drugs and extort weaker prisoners. Assaults are commonplace across all the units.

As a newer facility, the buildings themselves are not quite as deteriorated as others in the state. However, the facilities can hardly keep up with the huge inmate population. Living units are crowded and noisy, with tensions running high.

A 2014 investigation found corruption was rampant at Everglades. Inmates used contraband cell phones to coordinate drug deals, betting, and other criminal activities from behind bars. Staff were accused of taking bribes and bringing in contraband.

Why is Everglades Correctional Institution one of Florida’s worst prisons?

  • Huge complex housing over 5,500 inmates
  • Gangs openly control recreation yards for drugs and extortion
  • Assaults are common across the crowded, tense units
  • Buildings are newer but still overwhelmed and understaffed
  • 2014 investigation found staff corruption and contraband phones

Jackson Correctional Institution (Malone, FL)

Jackson Correctional Institution has become notoriously dangerous, especially for elderly and disabled inmates who are vulnerable to attack. An inmate survey in 2018 found it was the worst facility in Florida for physical and sexual abuse.

Gangs infiltrate Jackson’s housing units where they serve as unchecked power structures among inmates. Violence and drugs are rampant throughout the prison. Solitary confinement is overused, creating a volatile environment.

Medical care is extremely poor at Jackson Correctional, with long delays before an inmate can see a prison doctor. Even those with urgent issues often receive minimal care. The facilities themselves are decaying with constant plumbing and sewage issues.

Why is Jackson Correctional Institution one of Florida’s worst prisons?

  • 2018 inmate survey found it had the most physical/sexual abuse
  • Gangs infiltrate housing units as unchecked power structures
  • Rampant violence, drugs, and excessive use of solitary confinement
  • Dangerous for elderly and disabled inmates
  • Very poor medical care with long delays to see a doctor
  • Deteriorating physical conditions from plumbing/sewage issues

Table: Notable incidents at the worst prisons in Florida

Everglades Correctional Institution2014Investigation found staff corruption, contraband cell phones
Florida State Prison20199 inmates died due to inmate-on-inmate homicide
Santa Rosa Correctional Institution2018Inmate homicide with homemade knife
Union Correctional Institution2017Video showed officers beating an inmate
Apalachee Correctional Institution2017Inmate killed after beating by guards ruled as ‘natural causes’
Dade Correctional Institution2012Inmate killed a cellmate, hid body for days
Jackson Correctional Institution2018Survey found it had the most physical and sexual abuse

What causes such poor, violent conditions in Florida state prisons?

Florida’s prison system suffers from chronic challenges that contribute to poor, crowded, and violent conditions across many institutions. Here are some of the main causes:

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Many Florida prisons are filled far beyond capacity, sometimes forcing two or three inmates into a cell meant for one person. This crowding causes tense, volatile environments where violence is more likely. It also spreads medical issues and makes rehabilitative programming impossible.


Staff shortages plague the Florida Department of Corrections. There are not enough corrections officers to adequately secure the ballooning inmate populations. This allows contraband to flow in and gangs to organize unchecked within facilities.

Poor Healthcare

With understaffed medical units, inmates often cannot receive treatment for even urgent conditions. Psychiatric medication is inconsistently provided. Lack of care and mental illness among the prisons leads to suicides and medical emergencies.

Gangs & Contraband

Gangs hold enormous power in Florida’s prisons. They can traffic drugs, weapons, and other contraband through visitors and corrupt staff. Weak security allows them to openly conduct business and violently enforce rules.

Deteriorating Facilities

Many Florida prisons are decades old with minimal maintenance over the years. Living units lack climate control and hot water. Leaks, mold, rust, and sewage issues go unfixed. These conditions breed disease and unrest.

Solitary Confinement Overuse

Solitary is often used as an ineffective band-aid in Florida’s prisons. Inmates get sentenced to months or years in isolation for gang affiliation or minor infractions. This leads to severe psychological damage and volatility.

What reforms could improve conditions in Florida prisons?

Major reforms are needed to address the crowded, violent state of Florida’s correctional institutions. Here are some proposals from criminal justice reform advocates:

Reduce Prison Populations

Reduce inmate populations by increasing paroles, rehabilitation programs, and alternatives to incarceration. Ease restrictions on gain time and work release. Prison capacity issues underlie many other problems.

Increase Staffing

Hire more corrections officers to improve inmate-staff ratios. This allows for better security, medical care, and access to programming. Offer competitive pay and benefits to aid recruitment and retention.

Improve Healthcare

Expand medical and mental health staffing and services. Reduce barriers to inmates obtaining treatment. Partner with external providers to supplement prison healthcare. Adequate care reduces conflict and saves lives.

Limit Solitary Confinement

Restrict solitary to brief disciplinary sanctions for major infractions. Prohibit it for vulnerable populations. Solitary overuse breeds mental illness and volatility upon release back to population.

Upgrade Facilities

Repair and replace deteriorating buildings. Improve ventilation and cooling. Establish preventative maintenance plans. Create healthy living environments to reduce disease transmission and unrest.

Root Out Corruption

Investigate and remove staff allowing in contraband or colluding with gangs. Restrict contact visits that lead to trafficking. Prosecute criminal behavior among prison officials.


In conclusion, Florida’s state prisons suffer from chronic and dangerous problems like overcrowding, violence, poor healthcare, and deteriorating facilities. Prisons like Union Correctional Institution, Florida State Prison, and Dade Correctional Institution have earned notorious reputations for unchecked brutality and dysfunctional conditions.

Reforms like reducing the inmate population, increasing staffing, improving healthcare services, upgrading facilities, and rooting out corruption are urgently needed. Florida owes a duty of care to inmates and must take action to resolve the unacceptable state of its correctional institutions. Improving prison conditions would benefit inmates, staff, and the overall community.

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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