Former Prison Inmates Silently Protest at Lowell Correctional

MARION COUNTY, Fla. (WCJB) -- "It's significant. It's atrocious and there are so many different kinds of abuse," says Tatu, a former inmate who spent 25 years in Lowell Correctional Institute.

According to her attorney, Cheryl Weimer was slammed to a concrete floor and kicked by guards in august leaving her hospitalized as a quadriplegic. Now previous inmates are advocating for change and justice.

Debra Bennett, who previously spent five years in Lowell Correctional Institute, says, "They beat her and almost took her life. And this is Lowell right here and right over here is another prison and that's where they are. They just sent them to another prison to drive around in an air-conditioned van to be on the perimeter. There's been no arrest and we're going to keep doing this and getting bigger until there is an arrest."

Protestors spoke of a long history of mental and physical abuse including something they call "sideswiping" which they say happens on a regular basis.

"If there's an altercation or if you're in handcuffs and you're being escorted they're supposed to hold your arm. But if you do anything or if they're mad they're going to side-swipe your feet and you're going to hit the ground, you have no arms to brace yourself you'll hit the ground," Tatu says.

Almost every person you see protesting spent time behind bars, and the faces with covered mouths on signs represent hundreds more.

"It's a silent protest because we're tired of talking. Nobody listen nobody does anything, nobody helps us. These pictures are of former inmates we have 875 photos from 875 people who used to be in prison," Bennett says.

"One of the hardest things is coming out of there and leaving people there and see it still happening I can't do anything but out here I can," Tatu says.

Bennett says their goal is to force the department of corrections to use an outside agency to investigate every report of abuse, and for correctional officers to have to use body cameras because just like inmates. Bennet says they know where the camera blind spots in the facility are.

"You're away from society. That's your punishment, it's not to be crippled or paralyzed or beaten. They're acting like they're the judge, jury and sometimes the executioner," says Bennett.

On Friday, the Department of Corrections issued a statement saying the full details of this incident are unclear at this time and that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will be leading the investigation.