Orlando Sentinel by Jeff Weiner
May 15, 2020
The Florida Department of Corrections is now facing a lawsuit over its failure to make public its plans and procedures for protecting the state’s nearly 96,000 prisoners from the new coronavirus.
The suit, filed Thursday by the Southern Poverty Law Center in Leon County circuit court, alleges the FDC has yet to provide records the nonprofit legal advocacy group requested in late March.
“While FDC has acknowledged our request, it has provided very little information about its policies and procedures to deal with COVID-19,” said Shalini Goel Agarwal, senior supervising attorney for the Florida SPLC, in a statement. “The law does not allow FDC to respond when it feels like it because of the pandemic; because of the pandemic, FDC must comply now.”
According to the suit, the SPLC on March 20 requested, “All plans, policies, and procedures implemented by the Florida Department of Corrections since November 1, 2019, relating to ‘Novel Coronavirus 2019’ or ‘COVID-19.”
The group also asked for documentation of positive test results for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, in FDC facilities.
As of Friday afternoon, the FDC was reporting 1,033 positive tests among inmates and 231 among staff. Nine prisoners have died of COVID-19. An unidentified FDC spokesperson in an email Friday said the agency had not yet been served with the lawsuit.