Tallahassee, FL -- The Florida Coalition for Criminal Justice Reform has sent a letter to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis urging him to take immediate action to reduce the incarcerated population due to the threat of a COVID-19 outbreak.
There are roughly 95,000 people now incarcerated in Florida and many prisons have dealt with serious overcrowding issues that make it practically impossible to practice social distancing. The high population creates both a public health and humanitarian crisis if an outbreak occurs.
DeSantis is being urged to take three steps.
- Review all elderly and medically vulnerable people in prison and suspend the prison terms of as many as possible through commutations or pardons.
- Release as many people as possible using the furlough system.
- Drastically increase the testing capacity within the prison system.
The following is a statement from Carrie Boyd, policy counsel for SPLC Action.
“As of May 8, nine incarcerated people have died of COVID-19. We have 575 incarcerated people who’ve tested positive along with 187 corrections officers. There are almost certainly more people who are COVID-19 positive and haven’t been tested. It will get much worse if action isn’t taken to reduce the prison population and increase testing.”
The following is a statement from Kara Gross, legislative director and senior policy counsel for the ACLU of Florida.
“It is beyond inhumane to force medically vulnerable and elderly individuals to be locked up in close quarters with others who have COVID-19, especially when there are no means of socially distancing oneself and little to no access to protective masks or hand-sanitizer. This is a deadly equation. Governor DeSantis can literally save lives if he chooses to, will he?”
The following is a statement from Dante Treviani, executive director of the Florida Justice Institute.
“Thousands of incarcerated people in Florida are going to contract this disease. A significant percentage of the people who are infected will become seriously ill, and some will die. The governor can mitigate this by taking the steps we’ve recommended, and we hope he takes our suggestions seriously.”
The letter to Governor DeSantis can be read here.