In a blistering condemnation of Florida’s prison system, several current and former prison inspectors told state lawmakers on Tuesday that they were repeatedly ordered to ignore evidence of crimes committed by corrupt officials because doing so would give the Department of Corrections a “black eye.”

Three inspectors and one former inspector, speaking publicly for the first time, testified under oath about interference by unnamed agency officials as they attempted to weed out inmate abuse, medical neglect, gang violence and organized crime.

In testimony before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, the inspectors cited cases where they were told to withhold information from prosecutors, to close investigations into staffers who were politically connected and to avoid bringing criminal charges no matter how much evidence they had.

“We are at the point where we can no longer police ourselves,” said John Ulm, a veteran law enforcement officer who works in the Inspector General’s Office.

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