Florida Evacuates Thousands of Prisoners Ahead of Hurricane Irma

September 9, 2017 Updated: October 5, 2018

As Hurricane Irma closes in on Florida’s coasts, residents must make the decision to evacuate or stay put. But there are some who lack the freedom to make that decision.

Over 7,000 inmates of the state’s prison facilities are being moved in the largest evacuation the Florida Department of Correction has ever conducted, according to Tampa Bay Times.

(Florida Department of Corrections)
(Florida Department of Corrections)

As of Friday, Sept. 8, 36 facilities have been evacuated, mostly work camps and community and work release centers.

“Inmates have been relocated to the most secure and safe facilities available statewide,” the department stated in a release.

Irma has somewhat weakened over Cuba and is now a category 3 storm with 125 mph winds. But it’s forecast to pick up strength again over the ocean and move northward along the west coast of Florida as a category 4 storm with 140 mph winds.

(Screenshot via NOAA)
(Screenshot via NOAA)

The corrections department incarcerates about 97,000 people in Florida and most will take shelter where they are.

“I told every regional director to act like this storm was going to hit them directly,” the department secretary Julie Jones told reporters on Thursday.

(Florida Department of Corrections)
(Florida Department of Corrections)

“Florida institutions have been stocked with emergency food and water supplies in the event the facility is unable to receive normal deliveries following the storm,” a Saturday release stated.

(Florida Department of Corrections)
(Florida Department of Corrections)

Jones said the inmates are being given time outside, canteen privileges, and increased access to phone calls.

“They understand what’s going on,” she said. “They’re worried about their families and their families are worried about them and for the prison population it’s very collegial.”

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