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Orlando City Commissioner Regina Hill Pushes For New Legislation Following Her Brother’s Death From COVID-19


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State Sen. Randolph Bracy addresses the media outside Orlando City Hall as commissioner Regina Hill looks on, Monday August 17th, 2020. Photo: Matthew Peddie, WMFE

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State Sen. Randolph Bracy says he plans to introduce new legislation next session to give families of prisoners better access to health care information during their incarceration. 

The legislation will be named for Orlando City Commissioner Regina Hill’s brother, who died of COVID-19. 

Bracy spoke at a press conference in front of Orlando City Hall Monday alongside Hill and Florida Rights Restoration Coalition executive director Desmond Meade. 

Hill said her brother, 52 year old Edward Hill, died on August 10th of COVID-19. She said he was an inmate at South Bay Correctional Facility, a privately run prison in Palm Beach County, and was less than a year away from release. 

Orlando City Commissioner Regina Hill said her brother was less than a year away from being released. Photo: Matthew Peddie, WMFE

She said it was “horrific” that she was only notified that he was sick at the eleventh hour. 

“When I was notified that my brother was in critical condition, he was on a ventilator. And then I was told that he had been hospitalized for 14 days prior to me being notified,”  said Hill.

Hill said she was able to start making decisions about her brother’s care after she asked the hospital to make her his health care surrogate. 

Bracy said his bill will require that inmates name a health care surrogate on intake. 

He called the coronavirus pandemic in Florida prisons a “full blown crisis” with over fifty deaths in the last six weeks. 

“I’ve gotten so many calls and emails from concerned citizens about their loved ones, and these requests to the executive branch have largely been ignored,” said Bracy.

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

At a press conference last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis said the majority of inmates with the virus are asymptomatic, and that all inmates are being tested and the sick are being separated. 

Orange County jail turned down free mask offer

Desmond Meade said he’s disappointed that an Orange County jail turned down an offer of free masks at the beginning of the pandemic. 

Meade said the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition has spent $150,000 on masks and hand sanitizer to distribute to prisons around the state. 

He said the coalition offered more than 14,000 free masks to 33rd Street Jail in Orlando. 

“They denied our request [of] free masks,” said Meade.

FRRC executive director Desmond Meade speaks to the media outside Orlando City Hall as Orlando City Commissioner Regina Hill looks on. Photo: Matthew Peddie, WMFE

And we know that there are people in 33rd street jail that are there because they are too poor to post bail. And they’re not even convicted of a felony offence, but yet they face a death sentence. And this is totally unacceptable.”

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings says when the offer was made, there were cases in the state prison system but not yet in the county jails. 

“So we thought that it really was more appropriate, more needed for those masks to be provided to the Florida Department of Corrections,” said Demings.

He said the county had already started to provide masks to the jail staff at the beginning of the pandemic.

The first positive case in an Orange County jail was reported on June 4th, in an inmate who had been transferred from the Florida Department of Corrections. Demings said the first positive case in an Orange County inmate was not reported until the third week of June. A county spokesperson said the FRCC offered masks on April 7th.

 

 


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Matthew Peddie

About Matthew Peddie

Host of WMFE's Intersection & Assistant News Director

A recent transplant to the Sunshine State, Matthew Peddie grew up in New Zealand and studied journalism at the University of Western Ontario. After graduating with an MA in Journalism he returned to Christchurch, working as a reporter for Radio Live and Radio New Zealand. He’s reported live from the scene of ... Read Full Bio »

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