Vigil for 80+ Prisoners Murdered By State via COVID-19 at Capitol & FDOC

Vigil for 80+ Prisoners Murdered By State via COVID-19 at Capitol & FDOC

One of 78 body bags, representing all the Florida prisoners who have died of Covid so far, lies in front of the historic state capitol building.

August 22nd, 2020. Historic Florida State Capitol Building, 400 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee, FL 32301

On August 22nd 2020 organizations across Florida hosted a public funeral service and procession in remembrance of the dozens of prisoners’ lives senselessly lost from COVID-19 due to the negligence of officials in Florida who oversee operations at both state and Federal prisons, county jails, and ICE detention centers.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, over 15,000 incarcerated people in Florida have contracted COVID-19 resulting in 78 known COVID-related deaths inside FDOC prisons, 5 inside BOP Federal facilities, and 2 within immigrant detention centers across Florida. Despite growing public health concerns and deteriorating conditions inside Florida prisons, our government officials have continuously refused to act. “They’re scared for their lives. ICE is warehousing immigrants on top of each other, with as many as 60 people forced to share one toilet and no chance for social distancing,” says organizer Wendy King with Friends of Miami-Dade Detainees.

Research from Johns Hopkins and UCLA shows prisoners are 550% more likely to catch COVID-19, and 300% more likely to die from it than the general population. According to the New York Times COVID-19 Case Tracker, 84 of the top 100 COVID-19 outbreak hotspots in the country are prisons and jails, 15 of them are located in Florida’s incarceration system alone. “Prisoners are being denied access to clean water, ample food, and cleaning supplies while being forced into filthy overcrowded cells with people sleeping on the floor. As conditions worsen, the death toll in total has risen to over 440 deaths so far this year alone,” says Karen Smith with Florida Prisoner Solidarity. This is cruel, unusual, and unacceptable.

We demand Governor Ron DeSantis, FDOC Director Mark Inch, and Florida ICE officials Liana Castano and Jason Davidson take immediate action to reduce Florida’s incarcerated population–and potentially save hundreds of lives–through the following actions:

  1. Immediately grant parole to the over 4,000 eligible prisoners and bring back parole for everyone. No human should be sentenced to death by incarceration or serve any sentence without the chance of parole. 
  2. Immediately grant clemency for the hundreds of eligible prisoners, and authorize compassionate and early release programs to all state prisoners.
  3. Release on humanitarian parole or at-home monitoring all people held in ICE detention, beginning with the elderly and medically vulnerable.
  4. Reduce prison time to 65% of sentences. 
  5. End racial overcharging, over-sentencing, and denial of parole for Black and Brown people immediately.
  6. Raise age limits of “juvenile offenders” to 25 years old, commensurate with the scientific consensus on human brain development.
  7. Abolish death sentencing and convert to time with a 25 year cap. 

It is impossible to social distance in a cell. Governor DeSantis, FDOC Director Mark Inch, and ICE’s failure to act is a conscious decision that will actively result in hundreds if not thousands of needless deaths. Every death inside a cage from COVID-19 due to this choice is an act of state-sanctioned murder.

Body bags for all the Florida prisoners who have died of Covid-19 laid at the entrance to the Florida Department of Corrections Building.