Victim’s rights advocates say Florida enforcement needs to notify citizens before releasing criminals amid a coronavirus pandemic.
Marsy’s Law For Florida sent letters to all 67 of Florida’s sheriffs saying they have a constitutional requirement to keep victims informed if perpetrators get released. The group backed a successful constitutional amendment in 2018 establishing a victim’s bill of rights.
Within that was a requirement of notification of inmates’ release, be it early or on schedule.
“We appreciate the risks taken and duties performed by our law enforcement officers in the midst of a crisis. And, while we understand that difficult decisions must be made, we want to make sure the interests of victims are also considered as we navigate this unprecedented situation,” said Sandi Poreda, Marsy’s Law for Florida victim outreach coordinator.
For the moment, state officials say Florida’s prisons have not been impacted by the spread of COVID-19.
And in Hillsborough County, Sheriff Chad Chronister announced the release of 164 nonviolent offenders from two county jails.
And 13 Miami law enforcement officers are under self-quarantine right now after showing symptoms.
Marsy’s Law advocates said they understand that concerns about exposure to the coronavirus may prompt such decisions as the number of cases of COVID-19 in Florida grows.
But it’s critical the victims of any offender learn in advance if the person who allegedly victimized them is allowed back on the streets.
“Social distancing and quarantines may cause victims the added stress and potential harm of being isolated from resources and assistance,” Poreda said.
“We’re imploring our sheriffs to help ensure victims do not also experience a potentially dangerous or even life-threatening encounter with a perpetrator they believed was still incarcerated.”
Florida has more than 500 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 10 have died in the state.