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Protesters seek relief for prisoners during COVID-19 outbreak at Coleman

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Protesters lined the highway in front of the Coleman federal prison complex in Sumter County on Saturday afternoon. Photo: Joe Byrnes

About 40 family members of inmates — waving signs and wearing masks — protested outside the Coleman prison complex in Sumter County Saturday afternoon.

They are worried about a COVID-19 outbreak there.

Organizer Miguel Inda-Romera of Miami said they want to be voices for the inmates. His 67-year-old mother is at Coleman’s minimum security camp and has the coronavirus.

“We want them to be fed,” he said. “We want them to be taken care of, and we want the vulnerable and the sick to be released.”

As of Sunday evening, the Federal Bureau of Prisons counted 188 active cases and one death among inmates at four different Coleman prisons. At least 52 staff members have tested positive, too.

Thammy Castro came up from Miami with her grandfather to support her aunt, an inmate at Coleman’s minimum security camp. Family members said the outbreak there is worse than reported.

“There’s 50 percent of them contaminated,” Castro said. “Tomorrow it could be 70, the day after 80, 90, until they’re all contaminated. And what are they waiting for? For someone to die?”

The protesters held signs, blared horns and chanted along the highway. The signs said things like “Proper care for inmates,” “Not sentenced to die” and “Inmates matter too.”

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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.