Florida state prisons 2nd in nation for inmate COVID deaths

Barbed wire. Credit: GettyImages?????

COVID-19 has killed 154 inmates in Florida state prisons since at least April. That’s second nationwide to Texas, where 161 inmates have died of the disease.

In 23 other state prison systems — about half the state prisons in the nation — fewer than 10 state inmates have died, including nine that report zero fatalities from the coronavirus, according to a national tracker maintained by the Marshall Project.

The project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that focuses on criminal-justice reporting.

The Marshall Project analysis found that COVID deaths are again on the rise in state prisons around the nation.

“By Oct. 15, the number of deaths had its largest one-week rise since mid-May – driven by new deaths reported in California, Florida, Virginia, Illinois, Texas and 13 other states – a jump of 3 percent in a week,” said the analysis, issued Friday.

Of the deceased Florida inmates, 69 were incarcerated in just four of the state’s major state prisons, according to the Marshall Project and the Florida Department of Health: Reception and Medical Center in Lake Butler (29 deaths), South Florida Reception Center in Doral (20 deaths), Union Correctional Institution in Raiford (10 deaths) and Dade Correctional Institution in Florida City (10 deaths).

The four prisons each incarcerate between 1,400 and 2,000 inmates, according to prison census reports.

Ohio was third highest in the nation for COVID inmates who have died. Michigan, Georgia and California have had around 70 deaths.

The Florida Department of Corrections also maintains data on COVID-19 infections.

State prisons with the largest number of infections have been at:

Inmate advocates demonstrate at the Florida Capitol to demand safer conditions in Florida-based prisons where 154 inmates have died of COVID-19 through Monday.
Credit: Jordan Mazurek., Florida Prisoner Solidarity

Columbia Correctional Institution, or CI, a prison for men in Lake City (1,369 inmates infected); Lowell CI, a prison for teen-age girls and women in Ocala (1,005 infected); Mayo CI Annex, a men’s prison in Mayo (954 infected); Suwannee CI in Live Oak, a men’s prison (879 infected) and Santa Rosa CI in Milton, a men’s prison (808), according to the Florida Department of Corrections.

In all of the state’s 145 facilities, including 50 major prisons and seven privately run prisons, 16,499 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the corrections department.

More than 3,300 prison employees also have tested positive at some point, with two fatalities reported.

More than 66,000 negative tests have been reported, but the corrections department tracker does not specify whether that number represents individual inmates or total tests, including multiple negative tests on individuals.

In either case, the reported numbers of positive and negative test results suggest a positivity rate of 25 percent or more. Florida’s positivity rate in the general population is around 5 percent according to the Department of Health, but it is closer to 13 percent according to Johns Hopkins University & Medicine’s COVID tracker. The difference appears to revolve around whether multiple negative tests on given individuals are included or excluded in the calculations.