The Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) suspended all family visitation on March 11, 2020 in response to COVID-19 infection rates within the prison system (Weber, 2020). FDC resumed visitation with modified restrictions on October 2, 2020 (FDC, 2020; FDC, Oct 2020)
Phase 1 Modified Visitation, as FDC refers to the current visitation requirements, applies to family members of inmates (FDC, 2020; FDC, Oct 2020). In addition to the normal visitation policies, Phase 1 Modified Visitation imposes additional restrictions.
- Up to two immediate family members may visit weekly and must attend at the same time.
- No one under 12 years old is allowed.
- The Warden can approve non-immediate family members when there are extenuating circumstances.
- FDC has restrictions on visitation to inmates deemed “medically vulnerable” but this information is not released by FDC and must be provided by the inmate to their family visitors. Those with underlying health conditions and inmates in a medical quarantine block/isolation are not permitted to have visitors under this policy.
- These are non-contact visits with a barrier between inmates and visitors. No sharing of food allowed.
The following a summary of several county jails, which were chosen based on the community risk (Forida Health, 2020). State-wide new cases are increasing with currently a down trend for deaths. However, the death rates are expected to trend upward again in 2-4 weeks due to the lag behind new cases and the death rate trends. The current Positivity rate for Florida is 5.9%.
The Florida Panhandle includes the City of Tallahassee in Leon County. Positivity rating has been declining since being over 9% in mid-September to nearing 3% in mid-October (Forida Health, 2020).
Duval County includes the City of Jacksonville in northeastern Florida and adjacent to the state of George. Jacksonville Sheriff Office (JSO) runs the detention center for the City and Duval County. JSO has suspended all inmate in person visitation and only allow court ordered business and attorney’s to enter the building (JSO, 2020). Remote video visitation was implemented on March 16, 2020. Duval County’s positivity rating has been steadily increasing from mid-September at just over 4% to nearing 5.5% by mid-October (Forida Health, 2020).
The City of Tampa is in Hillsborough County on the central western coast of Florida.
Hillsborough County Sheriff Office restarted onsite video visitation on October 5, 2020 (HCSO, 2020). “At Home” video visitation for a fee and collect/pre-paid phone visitation are also allowed. Hillsborough County’s positivity rating has been steadily increasing from mid-September at about 5.5% to over 6% in mid-October (Forida Health, 2020). Nearby Pinellas County has a steeper rate of increase with a mid-September rate under 3% and a mid-October rate of 5% (Forida Health, 2020).
Southeastern cities of Miami through West Palm Beach; Palm Beach, Broward, and Dade counties
Palm Beach, Broward, and Dade counties are experiencing increasing COVID-19 cases.
Sheriff’s Office of Broward County closed in person visitation on March 24, 2020 and currently only allows for video visitation with family (SOBC, 2020). There is no charge and the visitor does not need to come to the jail. The courthouses are operational but closed to visitors. Broward County’s positivity rating has been steadily increasing from mid-September at just over 3% to nearing 4.5% by mid-October (Forida Health, 2020).
The Palm Beach County Sheriff Office has not updated their website since April 2020 but it appears in person visitation is suspended and inmates can have up to two visits through the onsite video visitation center (PBSO, 2020). Newly arrested people are screened prior to entering the jail facility and are sent to the hospital if they display any COVID-19 symptoms. Palm Beach County offers a commissary pack that can be ordered online with a limit of one package per 15 days that an inmate can receive. Inmates can also use funds in their inmate accounts for commissary and phone calls as well as a daily fee of $3 to have funds in an inmate account. Inmates are charged for medical services; however it is not clear if this has been waived during the pandemic as many other facilities have. Positivity rating has increased from about 3% in early October to over 4% two weeks later in mid-October (Forida Health, 2020).
Miami-Dade County Sheriff services the City of Miami and Dade County (MiamiDade.gov, 2020). Inmate visitation was suspended on March 21, 2020. The local state of emergency was extended on October 21, 2020. Positivity rating has been decreasing since late September from nearing 6% to approximately 4% in mid-October (MiamiDade.gov, 2020).
Infection Rates and Death Rates
Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) provides statistics for testing and inmate status by facility but only provide number of positive tests for staff (FDC, 26 October 2020). As of October 26, 2020, FDC has conducted approximately 82,828 tests with a positivity rate of approximately 20%. The state reports 3,414 institution staff have a positive test result. Of the inmates who have previously tested positive, 98% (16,210) are currently clear of the disease. Of the staff who have tested positive, 90% (3,031) have been cleared to return to work. As of October 21, 2020, 161 inmate deaths are attributed to COVID-19. No staff deaths were reported. 15 of the states 145 institutions reported no active cases of COVID-19 as of October 26, 2020, which indicates there are COVID-19 infections in approximately 90% of the state’s prisons.
The Florida Department of Health (FLH) provides COVID-19 deaths for correctional facilities but no other summary information (Forida Health, 2020).
County jails are not publicly reporting cases of COVID-19 as the state prison system does. News articles on current infection rates are outdated.
|Type of Facility||Family Visitation||Attorney Visitation||Commissary/Money for Expenses||Other Programs|
|General Information||Hours and Parking for Visitation||Inmate Property Release|
|State-Run Correction Facility||No information given.||No specific information provided|
|Broward County||Family may pick up personal property with written authorization from the inmate. Any items not retrieved within 30 days of discharge are disposed.||Attorney visiting hours are from 7:30am to 2pm and 4pm to 10pm daily.|
|Palm Beach County||Inmates provide written authorization for release Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 3pm for someone else to pick up personal items. Inmate will need to retrieve if not collected prior to discharge.||No information was provided.|
|Miami & Dade County|
|Jacksonville and Duval County||If parking is needed, there appears to be parking available nearby in free and pay lots.||Released with the inmate.||Attorneys are permitted to have non-contact visitation with inmates.|
|Hillsborough County||Funds on the inmate at time of intake are put into inmate account for fees and later use for commissary and other fees during stay.||No information provided.|
FDC. (2020, October 2). Phase 1 COVID-19 Visitation Guidelines Graphic. Retrieved October 22, 2020 from Florida Department of Corrections: http://www.dc.state.fl.us/ci/docs/FDC-Visitation-Return-Infographic-English.jpg
FDC. (26 October 2020). COVID-19 Information. Retrieved October 26, 2020 from Florida Department of Correstion: http://www.dc.state.fl.us/comm/covid-19.html
FDC. (Oct 2020). Main Page. Retrieved October 26, 2020 from Florida Department of Corrections: http://www.dc.state.fl.us/index.html
Forida Health. (2020, October 26). What you need to know now about COVID-19 in Florida. Retrieved October 26, 2020 from Florida Health: https://floridahealthcovid19.gov/
HCSO. (2020, October 5). Video Visitation. Retrieved October 26, 2020 from Hillsborough County Sheriff Office: https://teamhcso.com/Section/3d3adadd-0fc7-42ae-840b-6b6d96104ae3/Video-Visitation-Center
JSO. (2020, March 13). Corrections Facility Information. Retrieved October 26, 2020 from Jacksonville Sheriff Office: https://www.jaxsheriff.org/Resources/Corrections-Facility.aspx
MiamiDade.gov. (2020). Inmate Contact & Visitation. Retrieved October 26, 2020 from Miami-Dade County: https://www.miamidade.gov/global/service.page?Mduid_service=ser1479236266010643
PBSO. (2020, April 22). PBC Jail Coronavirus FAQ. Retrieved October 26, 2020 from Palm Beach Sheriff Office: https://www.pbso.org/inside-pbso/corrections/pbc-jail-coronavirus-faq/
PrisonPro. (2020). Florida Inmate Phones/Sending Money & Mail. Retrieved October 26, 2020 from PrisonPro: https://www.prisonpro.com/content/florida-inmate-phonessending-money-mail
SOBC. (2020). Inmate Visitor Information. Retrieved October 26, 2020 from Sheriff’s Office of Broward County: https://www.sheriff.org/DOD/Pages/Inmate-Visitor-Info.aspx
Weber, N. (2020, September 22). Prison visits have been suspended for six months. Here’s what it’s been like for families. Retrieved October 22, 2020 from Tampa Bay Times: https://www.tampabay.com/news/florida/2020/09/21/prison-visits-have-been-suspended-for-six-months-heres-what-its-been-like-for-families/#:~:text=But%20when%20that%20time%20came,state%20paused%20prison%20visits%20altogether.&text=Family%20prison%20visits%2