January 15, 2010
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Contact: Public Affairs Office
Bet you didn’t know that “Cool Hand Luke” was written by former Florida inmate Donn Pearce. Or that the Florida Department of Corrections has teams of tracking dogs who stand ready to assist local law enforcement when a child goes missing, or an elderly relative wanders away from home. Have you ever seen a prison shank (or homemade weapon), or a zip gun?
You can learn more and see it all at Florida’s Historic Capitol, which recently opened an exhibit featuring these items and many others. The display cases also focus on what’s for sale in inmate canteens, toys inmates made for needy children, the role of tobacco, and the Department’s Cold Case Card initiatives, where inmates are given free decks of cards with cold case information on each one, along with a tip line to call. Also on display are photographs and a speech given by former Governor Leroy Collins at the dedication of Florida State Prison in 1960. Parts of the Department’s timeline “Florida Corrections: Centuries of Progress” is also on display. The entire timeline can also be viewed online at http://www.dc.state.fl.us/oth/timeline.
“We’re hoping to educate the public about the different facets of our prison system, because there are a lot of misconceptions,” said Department of Corrections Secretary Walt McNeil. “By displaying the weapons inmates make out of items as common as an ink pen, for example, you can get a sense of some of the dangers our staff face daily.”
A tumultuous week at Florida State Prison in 1980 is also featured, during which Correctional Officer Richard J. Burke was murdered by death row inmate Thomas Knight and another officer was stabbed by a second death row inmate. Knight remains on death row today.
The cases were created by DC employees and were displayed in the hallways in the Department’s Tallahassee Central Office location over the last few years. This exhibit marks the first time these items have been displayed to the public, and it will be open through April 2, 2010.
“Everybody who has seen the exhibit has just loved it,” said Andy Edel, Exhibit Project Manager. “We’ve had a few people come in and ask specifically to see it.” He noted that the shanks display, Cold Case Cards and toys made by inmates are especially popular. “We’ve had a lot of compliments about the skill level of the inmates who made the toys.”
Admission to the Historic Capitol is free and parking is available across the street near the Florida Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial.