In an exclusive first-person story written for the Florida Courier, former State Representative Dwayne Taylor describes his experience as a prisoner in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary’s minimum security prison camp.
Editor’s note: After a four-day jury trial in Orlando in August 2017, Dwayne Taylor was convicted of eight counts of wire fraud in connection with alleged misuse of campaign funds. A federal appeals court denied his appeal in August 2018. He completed his prison sentence in December 2018, but is still on federal probation.
BY DWAYNE L. TAYLOR
SPECIAL TO THE FLORIDA COURIER
I will not identify my family and friends who were contacting officials regarding me and the condition of the Atlanta Federal Prison Camp. I want to protect them from being attacked and want all the attacks directed towards me. This story is about me, so I don’t care what people say or believe.
When I was able to communicate, I asked my family and friends to contact the congressional district representative, the Honorable John Lewis, to let his office know about the terrible and degradable conditions of the prison and about my health. His office needed to be made aware of the cruel and unusual punishment, a violation of the Eighth Amendment and several other constitutional laws.
Nothing to be done
After making several attempts to contact his office, they were told that there was nothing Rep. Lewis’ office could do for me and to try and contact my own congressman back in Florida.
This was amazing for me to hear. As a former elected official, it didn’t matter to me where a person was from reporting something in my district. My staff and I were going to investigate and get to the bottom of what was happening.
Many of the people in that camp that were sick and needed medical attention were from Atlanta, and their families had tried to contact his office as well. I figured that because I was a former state House member that they would at least investigate the matter. Wrong! They did not.
I love and admire Congressman John Lewis. I know this man is an icon and a legend and was willing to give up his life marching for civil rights in this country. I am not blaming him personally, but his staff was unacceptable. THIS DID HAPPEN.
My family and friends knew they could not contact the congressman in my Daytona Beach home district because he had a horrible reputation of not doing anything unlike former Congressman John Mica who was very visible in the district.
As a city commissioner and Florida state representative, I had worked with Congressman Mica on many issues in the community: public housing modernization, beachside beatification, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Research Park, and storm flooding relief. He was the person who gave me the initial funding for a new community center. He and I worked in a bipartisan way to help benefit the people we served.
On the other hand, I never had a working relationship with Congressman Mica’s successor, who was considered to very partisan and lazy. People in the community called him Ron “Do-Nothing DeSantis,” “Racist Ron” and “The Weasel.” He was never visible working in the community, and I don’t recall a single initiative he established.
We also knew he was not going to lift a finger to help me, because people in the community felt like he was partly responsible for my being in prison. I may have seen him in the community once a year at a large event. I can go on with many stories about him, but I will save that for another time.
His ambitions were to always run for president of the United States. He would do anything to place himself in position to do so. You heard it from me first.
Since we knew this was not going to be an option, we had to seek help from others. I know many people may not believe this, because he is now the governor or Florida and such a likeable person to many. I know Dwayne Taylor is a convicted criminal and can’t be trusted. But this is STILL THE TRUTH!
My family and friends were relentless in trying to find help for me. They were able to contact Senator Bill Nelson’s office in Orlando. His staff and office did respond and inquired. They followed up and requested information and started an investigation on the matters.
I kept a log of the encounters and email communications I had with the medical staff. I sent the information to the Nelson staff regarding my situation and the prison. His office always tried to do the right thing, and I will always thank them for that.
I would also write and file complaints to the warden, following the administrative procedures rules. He ignored them while I was in prison. He was not that smart… or maybe he was, because he put me off for that long.
Finally, a response
After months of trying to get through to him and his help, he finally responded to me 91 days after I made my first complaint. He basically stated I was getting treatment and the doctor who was treating me did not see me in any distress or pain.
WHAT? The warden never came and interviewed or spoke with me to know if I was in fact telling the truth. How did the warden make his determination? I know: “All prisoners lie.” But I did, however, keep the notes, sir.
This clown was hilarious to me. He would send out memos and letters to the prisoners that looked like my 6-year-old daughter wrote them. I really don’t know why I was surprised by this because everybody in the prison knew he didn’t care and was trying to get the next job at a regional level. He was just buying time. This is their best?
Continued to suffer
I would have to continue suffer through another two months of pain and distress until my release came to the halfway house in Orlando. The prison continued to deny me any legal representation to come in and help me and any medical treatment for my heart.
Not only was my physical condition deteriorating, but my mental state felt like I was having a transorbital lobotomy. It felt like a section of my brain was being extracted because of the pain and suffering and the lack of medical attention.
I have seen firsthand how and why recidivism is so high in prisons. With the lack of meaningful educational and vocational programs and the inhumane treatment, inmates are destined to return.
Many of the times they want prisoners to return because they need someone to do the work. Prisoners are only used for one thing – slave labor.
I was discharged from prison and endured a long seven-hour drive – the prison refused to allow me to buy my own plane ticket. I reported to the Dismas Charities halfway house in Orlando.
I hoped my medical situation would get better, but that didn’t happen. The long journey made me feel worse and I was still having chest pains, so I immediately informed the staff and was told to go the emergency room at a REAL hospital.
Dismas was supposed to provide medical treatment for my last two months before my final release. I did not receive my weekly injections and medications and Dismas did nothing other than tell me to go to the emergency room. They denied my doctor’s office visits and to this day have not reimbursed me for expenses they promised for medications. I know they saw the cost of treating all my illnesses and said, “No way.”
Like the federal government, they are only interested in the money they can make off inmates. They were taking 25 percent gross pay from the inmate’s income and they were not interested in paying for anyone’s expenses. After all, I did not have a job and no money to give them.
Therefore, it is impossible for inmates to succeed sometime on the outside. The prison paid inmates slave wages – 50 cents an hour with minimal health care, and now you have to pay this when you are released from prison.
Yes, I know. “They are criminals, so who cares? Treat them like slaves.” A legal form of human trafficking. Again, why was I expecting something different? Did I mention I had never been to prison before?
Finally getting help
I sought treatment at Florida Hospital in downtown Orlando. I was admitted, monitored and given multiple tests over the course of about a week. During these numerous tests, a cardiac catherization was performed and that was the one to reveal the shock of my life.
The cardiologist told me I had so many arteries that were completely blocked that he was not able to place any heart stints in nor would he be able to perform any type of cardiac bypass procedure.
I WAS INOPERABLE. I WOULD NEED TO HAVE A HEART TRANSPLANT. He told me that my heart was so bad he could not even finish the procedure. He explained that when I didn’t receive those vitally important weekly injections, my arteries became inflamed and created the blockages.
I asked if it could have come from eating bad food over the years; he said no. These arteries are completely blocked and not like those that come from poor eating habits.
Wow. Now I am literally one more blocked artery from leaving this earth. This was a death sentence.
Next week: Grief and living day to day.
Editor’s note: Rep. John Lewis office, Atlanta Federal Prison personnel, Atlanta General Hospital, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office and Dismas Charities will be requested to respond to Dwayne Taylor’s allegations. Their responses, if any, will be published in this space.