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I-TEAM: Inmate claims coronavirus ‘spreading’ fast at Duval County jail

'It's spreading down here real fast,' anonymous inmate tells News4Jax

I-TEAM: Inmate claims coronavirus ‘spreading’ fast at Duval County jail
I-TEAM: Inmate claims coronavirus ‘spreading’ fast at Duval County jail

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An inmate is speaking out about conditions at the Duval County jail, a day after the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office disclosed the release of over 50 nonviolent offenders this month in hopes of curbing the spread of coronavirus.

The inmate, whom we’ll call John, told the News4Jax I-TEAM it’s a life-threatening situation for those with health issues living in close quarters. John, who said he has heart disease, voiced concerns that the outbreak inside the facility is only getting worse.

“It’s spreading down here real fast,” John told the I-TEAM. “They are putting people in cells who don’t have coronavirus with those that have it.”

In all, roughly 550 nonviolent, low-level offenders have been released from the jail as authorities overseeing the facility seek to keep the contagious virus from spreading among its population.

A Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said the agency is following all guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the jail.

Nationwide, the number of prisoners who test positive for COVID-19 is 5.5 times higher than the general population, according to CNN.

John said he fears for his life because of his preexisting health condition in what he’s described as an unsanitary environment. After his bunkmate was diagnosed with COVID-19, the potentially deadly disease caused by coronavirus, he said, he was quarantined instead of being tested.

“My roommate tested positive for coronavirus and they moved him out of here. And I’ve been in the cell with this dude for two weeks,” John said.

Duval County jail population
Total number of inmates2,162
Inmates positive for COVID-19436
“Precautionary” inmates1,292

A source inside the jail tells the I-TEAM that inmates who test positive for coronavirus are being placed in fourth floor dormitories. In a statement, a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office acknowledged that those who test positive or show symptoms are being quarantined.

“Inmates are immediately removed from their dorm if they test positive or exhibit symptoms of the coronavirus. People who may have been exposed are moved to quarantine to watch for symptoms. Everyone in the jail has been tested, and all incoming inmates are tested as well,” the statement said.

According to figures provided Thursday by the Sheriff’s Office, 436 of the 2,162 inmates incarcerated at the facility have tested positive. Most of those inmates (411) are said to be asymptomatic while the remaining 25 have shown symptoms.

Another 1,292 are considered precautionary inmates, according to JSO. That means they have been tested and are awaiting results or they were placed in quarantine after refusing to take tests.

John said he doesn’t feel like jail officials are taking measures to ensure the virus does not spread.

“The living conditions…when they come through and spray (the cells), they put you right back in the cell,” he said. “The cells are contaminated and they put you right back in the cell.”

About the Author:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.