PALM BEACH, FL – Civil rights advocates today sent a letter to Palm Beach County officials urging them to take immediate steps to minimize the exposure of incarcerated individuals and employees to COVID-19 in Palm Beach County. Like other facilities across the state, the jail conditions in Palm Beach County make it an ideal environment for the transmission of this contagious virus. The letter explains how the county’s jails are unable to limit the gathering of 10 or more people and other social distancing measures recommended by public health officials, due to thousands of individuals living in close proximity to each other.
Currently, Palm Beach County has 630 cases of COVID-19. Right now, South Florida has more than half of the confirmed cases in the state and that number is expected to rise. To slow the spread of the virus, public health experts have recommended that state and local officials take action to reduce their jail populations and across the state, many of these officials are taking action to reduce overcrowding and reduce the jail population. In stark contrast, Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw has refused to heed these concerns and insists on keeping people housed in its county jails.
The letter is addressed to both Sheriff Ric Bradshaw and State Attorney Dave Aronberg, and comes in response to reports that two Palm Beach County jail deputies have tested positive for COVID-19, and reports that Palm Beach County leads Florida in the number of people who have died of COVID-19.
Demands in the letter to local officials include:
Decreasing the number of individuals coming into the jail by issuing notices to appear for all misdemeanors or ordinance violations.
Disclosing to the public the number of tests given to both inmates and employees as well as the results of those tests.
Releasing individuals on non-monetary conditions if their bail is currently set at $10,000 or less. Most people held in jails have not been convicted of a crime, and most of those have simply been arrested and are unable to post bond.
Permitting the immediate release of those charged with misdemeanors and non-violent felonies or a technical violation of probation.
Organizations who signed onto the letter include:
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida
Community Justice Project Dream Defenders Faith in Florida Florida
Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Florida Council of Churches
Florida Immigrant Coalition
Florida Justice Institute Florida Legal Services, Inc.
Gainesville Incarcerated Workers
Organizing Committee Inner City Innovators
LGBTQ Freedom Fund
New Florida Majority
Office of the Public Defender for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit
Palm Beach Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Palm Beach Community Coalition for Immigrant Rights
Southern Legal Counsel
SPLC Action Fund
The Rural Women's Health Project
The letter can be found here: https://www.aclufl.org/sites/default/files/letter_palm_beach_county_sher...