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Florida Cares raises concerns about food in state prisons

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During a press conference Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state is testing all inmates for the coronavirus. Image: The Florida Channel

Amid worsening COVID-19 conditions in Florida prisons, Governor Ron DeSantis said Thursday that they’re testing all the inmates and separating the sick ones.

And a nonprofit advocacy group is raising new concerns about how the prisoners are getting fed.

More than 14,000 Florida inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Some prisons, like Lowell in Marion County, have it really bad — nearly a thousand inmates infected and 58 staff members.

DeSantis said the vast majority of inmates with the virus are asymptomatic.

“You know,” DeSantis said. “We have had some prisoners who, particularly some of the ones who were very elderly with health conditions, end up hospitalized. We have lost some folks.”

At least 75 inmates have died and two staff members.

Florida Cares has asked for more safety measures and pressed unsuccessfully for the release of vulnerable, low-risk inmates.

In a letter to the governor, the nonprofit said some prisoners are suffering “intense hunger daily.”

Florida Cares Executive Director Denise Rock said they’ve seen a big increase in concerns about food.

“People are saying that either they’re getting breakfast and lunch at three o’clock in the afternoon or they’re getting dinner at 11:30 at night. Those kinds of things,” she said. “And their dinners will consist of a bologna sandwich, a fruit and carrots.”

Rock said that’s because the inmates who normally staff kitchens and deliver food are in quarantine and overworked corrections officers have to fill in.

In a written statement, Florida Department of Corrections officials said they follow guidelines that ensure “proper nutrition and caloric intake.”

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Joe Byrnes

About Joe Byrnes


Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.