HURRICANE IAN DEVASTATES FLORIDA PRISONS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: HURRICANE IAN DEVASTATES FLORIDA PRISONS

September 28th 5 PM EST 

Media Contact: D’Angelo- 813-777-0742

fighttoxicprisons@gmail.com

As Hurricane Ian continues striking Florida following landfall as a Category 4 hurricane Wednesday afternoon, over 176,000 people behind prison bars lie directly in the storm’s path. While some units have evacuated, others have gone on lockdown and are short staffed. In such situations, access to needed water, food, and power can be scarce for days to weeks following a hurricane. 

The Fight Toxic Prisons Disaster Response Team (FTP) mobilized prior to and during the storm to pressure for evacuations, stockpiling, and mass releases to ensure the horrors that happened at FCI Beaumont during Hurricane Harvey[1] and the disaster Florida prisoners had to endure during Hurricane Michael [2] don’t happen again. 

“At every level of the carceral system, there is an extremely dangerous lack of evacuation and safety protocols in place” stated Mei Azaad, a spokesperson for FTP. “The majority of deaths and illness that result from hurricanes don’t happen in the moment of the storm from wind speed or debris but rather from the lack of drinking water in the days following. Those deaths are often unaccounted for”. 

In the days prior to the storm, FTP organized a series of mass call-in campaigns to encourage facilities in evacuation zones to take precautions to ensure the safety of incarcerated people. Charlotte County Jail was one of those that refused to evacuate, despite being in a catastrophic storm surge zone. Charlotte CI, another facility in the path of Hurricane Ian, is only partially staffed and is crowding people into a few dorms on lockdown, without explanation. “Partial staffing at locked down facilities are the same conditions that led to deaths at Beaumont after Hurricane Harvey,” stated Sloan, another organizer with FTP.

Azaad explains, “These deaths are preventable. That’s why the work we do in preparation for a storm to get people evacuated is so important. We have seen success this year and in the past as a direct result of our pressure.” For example, on September 27th, the day after FTP organized a mass call-in campaign urging for evacuations at facilities in counties withmandatory evacuation orders, the Public Affairs Office of the Hillsborough Sheriff announced that the Orient Road Jail was evacuated. 

However, most facilities in danger of being impacted chose not to evacuate. Jordan Mazurek, spokesperson for the Campain to Fight Toxic Prisons explains the situation at Key West [3]: “We told them to evacuate, they said they were fine at 2 foot surge and didn’t, and now with a 3 foot surge we don’t know the status of this jail or the flood waters that folks inside had to endure. We don’t know if their supplies are okay or if they are now trapped in a flooded jail with no water or food.”

Fight Toxic Prisons is a national collective of abolitionists, environmental justice organizers, formerly and currently incarcerated folks and their loved ones. Since 2018, the FTP Disaster Response Team has been working with incarcerated people to ensure the safety of people incarcerated in facilities impacted by hurricanes. 

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Cited Articles:

[1]https://www.democracynow.org/2017/9/8/texas_prisoners_are_facing_horrid_conditions 

[2]https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/zahrahirji/this-florida-prison-took-in-evacuated-inmates-then-it-was 

[3]https://grist.org/extreme-weather/hurricane-ian-storm-surge-fort-myers-florida/ 

Additional Reading:
https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2018/may/17/eye-storm-when-hurricanes-impact-prisons-and-jails/