Justice advocates call for further proactive steps in Florida prisons.

Coronavirus warning sign on the barbed wire fence against flag of Florida. COVID-19 quarantine related 3D rendering
But groups praised steps Gov. Ron DeSantis has taken thus far.

A coalition of justice reform advocates called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to take extra steps to protect Florida’s prison population. But the advocates praised proactive steps taken thus far.

“We applaud Gov. DeSantis for acting quickly to protect correctional staff and vulnerable incarcerated people from a potentially deadly COVID-19 outbreak,” said Erin Haney, National Policy Director at the REFORM Alliance.

“Now, we’re asking him to continue that leadership by adopting more common-sense, lifesaving solutions from the SAFER plan. When the people who live or work in our prisons and jails are protected from the virus, our communities are safer off. With one of the largest prison populations in the country, the Governor has an opportunity to step up and protect the health of all Floridians by adopting these recommendations.”

The call for further protections comes after three Florida corrections officials tested positive for COVID-19.

As New York deals with 50 inmates and 30 corrections staffers tested positive, advocates say there should be vigilance in protecting populations for the same of the imprisoned and the officers sworn to guard them.

The letter, co-signed by Americans for Prosperity Florida director Skyler Zander, Faith & Freedom Coalition legislative director Patrick Purtill, The James Madison Institute police vice president Sal Nuzzo and FAMM Florida Director Greg Newburn, advocates for a list of measured dubbed SAFER Practices:

— Suspend jail for technical violations; suspend probation office visits and payment of fines
A — Adopt smart alternatives to incarceration
F — Free medical visits and treatment, hand sanitizer, soap, and protective gear
E — Extra precautions for guards and staff
R — Release elderly and vulnerable to home confinement

FAMM earlier this week called for a Special Session after a Marion County corrections staff tested positive for the coronavirus.

“Other states and cities are modeling this smart approach to public health and safety. Houston’s Harris County Jail is working with courts to identify and release high-risk people,” the letter reads.

“Half of the pregnant women in the facility have been released, and jail staff are working to release people over 50 years old who aren’t public safety threats. Iowa’s Department of Corrections is working on the “safe and sustainable” placement of nearly 700 people who have already been approved for parole or work release. And more than 80 people have been released from the Greenville County, South Carolina detention center, with more releases expected in the coming days.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]

One comment

  • Mike

    March 26, 2020 at 3:30 pm

    Florida could care less if people die. If they smoked some weed when they were young and didn’t come from a rich or well connected family, our legislators think they should die. The Florida Legislature has had years to pass meaningful criminal justice reform. They have had leadership on the issue from both Democratic and Republican sides of the aisle. Yet they have failed time and time again. The only reasonable conclusion is that they do not care about human life. Most of the Florida legislators that I know are horrible people, especially the Republicans.

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