Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Irma forces largest evacuation of prisoners in Florida history

Corrections Secretary Julie Jones explained arrangements to keep thousands of state inmates and prison staff safe.

SCOTT KEELER | Times

Corrections Secretary Julie Jones explained arrangements to keep thousands of state inmates and prison staff safe.

TALLAHASSEE — The biggest storm on record has forced Florida prison officials to conduct the largest evacuation of prisoners in state history.

More than 7,000 inmates from work camps and community release centers in south and central Florida are begin evacuated from wind and flood-prone areas to more secure facilities across the state, Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones told reporters Thursday.

In many cases, the inmates are being moved from low-lying areas and less secure facilities to related concrete block main institutions, said Michelle Glady, Corrections Department spokeswoman.

An estimated 4,000 inmates are being moved by buses and vans in Region 4, South Florida, another 3,000 inmates are being transported in Central Florida and there will be others who are transferred to stronger facilities in the northern part of the state, Jones said. The evacuations began Wednesday and will be completed by Friday, she said.

"I told every regional director to act like this storm was going to hit them directly,'' Jones said. She asked staff to find a way to "shelter inmates in place" in the safest buildings "and we're doing that."

The exodus means that many of the state's 97,000 inmates will spend the next several days in cramped quarters just weeks after the state put the entire prison system on lockdown fearing a coordinated uprising from inmates at several state facilities.

"I feel very comfortable that our inmate population is safe, our officers are safe,'' Jones said. "We have food and water for seven days and we have extensive plans for damage assessment, follow up."

Within 24 hours of the movement, family members of inmates will be able to track where their relatives have been transported by searching the agency's website.

In some cases, the inmates will be transported to facilities in evacuations zones which are expected to be able to withstand hurricane-force winds and flooding, Jones said.

Despite increased gang activity and a summer of unrest that has plagued Florida's troubled prison system, Jones was upbeat about the development. She said the inmates are in "close quarters right now" and are being given time outside with "lots of canteen" privileges, increased access to phone calls, and "lots of activities right now."

"They understand what's going on,'' she said. "They're worried about their families and their families are worried about them and for the prison population it's very collegial."

Contact Mary Ellen Klas at meklas@miamiherald.com. Follow @MaryEllenKlas

Irma forces largest evacuation of prisoners in Florida history 09/07/17 [Last modified: Friday, September 8, 2017 12:56am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Forecast: First day of fall brings more showers, humidity to Tampa Bay

    Weather

    More moisture will filter into the Tampa Bay area on Friday, the official start of fall, allowing for higher rain chances through the day and beginning half of the weekend.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast. [WTSP]
  2. Polk childcare workers who berated autistic child turn themselves in (w/video)

    Crime

    WINTER HAVEN — Two childcare workers are facing child abuse charges after a Snapchat video surfaced of them berating, taunting and throwing a backpack at an 8-year-old autistic child.

    Police are searching for two childcare workers - Kaderrica Smith, 26, and Alexis Henderson, 20 - after a Snapchat video surfaced of them berating, taunting and throwing a backpack at an 8-year-old Autistic child in Winter Haven. [Winter Haven Police Department]
  3. Trigaux: Tampa Bay household income tops $50,000 but still makes us look poor

    Personal Finance

    The good news is Tampa Bay's median household income finally crawled above $50,000 last year. The bad news is that figure — officially $51,115 by new U.S. Census Bureau data — still puts the Tampa Bay region as the poorest of the nation's 25 largest metro areas.

    Tampa Bay still has the lowest median household income among the 25 most populous metro areas, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
[Times]
  4. Oh, Florida! Irma's gone, but she left behind plenty of lessons for us

    Columns

    I don't want to make light of the misery and death that Hurricane Irma inflicted on Florida this month. A lot of it was ugly, and some of it was downright criminal. We saw greed and pettiness on …

    A Fort Myers woman who'd recently undergone a double-organ transplant painted a sign that said, "HOT SINGLE FEMALE SEEKS SEXY LINEMAN TO ELECTRIFY HER LIFE" and sure enough, she got her power turned back on. [Photo from video]
  5. Florida education news: Makeup days, accountability, charter schools and more

    Blogs

    MAKEUP DAYS: The Pasco County school district alters the daily schedule of 11 schools to make up teaching time missed because of Hurricane Irma, avoiding the …

    With students back in school after Hurricane Irma, schools across Florida begin scheduling makeup days for missed classroom time.