Over 200 inmates are sleeping on the floor of Pinellas County jail thanks to coronavirus. The rules for sick patients are making populations bottleneck at county jails in Florida state. The jail, which already struggled with capacity, has had to adapt to even more as the Florida Department of Corrections has stopped taking inmate transfers.
As such, many arrested remain at county jails, to the point that some, like Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, have requested that officers use their own judgment in cases where arrest might lead to a jail booking. While not recommending that they issue notices to appear in court instead, that seems to be the tactic being promoted.
Of the 220 inmates sleeping on the floor, 67 inmates are awaiting trial or transfer to prison, but have to stay in the county jail. This restriction is thought to last until March 30, while the Florida Department of Corrections works with public health officials to decide the next course of action.
The bottlenecking of inmates at the County Jail raises concerns, given the recent warnings against large gatherings. There are even concerns from civil rights groups that prisons and jails are amongst the most likely places to become hotbeds of infection. Some recommendations include a cite-and-release policy that would release individuals that can’t afford cash bail unless they are a risk to public safety and releasing detainees who are older, are more vulnerable to infection, or six months away from completing their sentence.
There are major concerns that jails and prisons may become vectors that spread Covid-19, the novel coronavirus, to their surrounding communities if action is not taken soon.