JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There is outrage from relatives of loved ones infected with COVID-19 who are incarcerated inside both the Duval County Jail and the Duval County Juvenile Detention Center.
Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office officials have already admitted that there are more than 100 inmates who tested positive for novel coronavirus and more than a dozen jail staff is also infected with the sometimes deadly virus.
But relatives of some of those inmates say they are being left in the dark about their loved ones’ conditions.
They also say they have not been given an explanation as to how the virus was able to spread after jail officials announced precautions that were being taken to prevent an outbreak behind bars.
Patricia Brooks is a concerned mother who recently learned her son Tyrone had become infected with COVID-19 while incarcerated inside the Duval County Jail. She said he is asthmatic.
“So he’s more at risk,” she said. “When the doctor told him he had corona, he said either his body fights back, or the corona would basically kill him.”
Shanita Canion’s 16-year-old son is locked up at the Duval County Juvenile Detention Center.
She said she was first told her son was not infected. Then, she says, she got a phone call saying he tested positive.
“She gave me the result. He tested positive,” Canion said. “I said I got false information and now you all are telling me my son tested positive.”
Eunice Barnum is the president of the Sherwood Forest Neighborhood Association and considered by many in her area to be a go-to person for help when it comes to issues like this.
“I’ve had parents reaching out to me. Some people were giving them my number and they were calling me for guidance or help. A what do you do kind of thing and it was a shocker,” Barnum said.
Barnum says she has been acting as a go-between for relatives and jail officials. She also says she has been trying to find out how the virus was able to spread throughout the jail after jail officials publicly announced protocols to prevent an outbreak inside the jail.
News4Jax attempted to contact both the State Attorney’s Office and JSO to find out what’s going on inside the jail, but because it’s a Friday before a major holiday weekend, we were not able to get in touch with anyone.
More than 500 nonviolent offenders inside the Duval County Pretrial Detention Center have been released since mid-March to keep the novel coronavirus from spreading inside the jail, officials say.
The jail reached 178 reported positive cases when 50 inmates who tested positive were released. At least some of those inmates were released as a part of an ongoing initiative to reduce the jail population, according to the State Attorneys Office.
Sheriff Mike Williams blamed the outbreak on one jailhouse doctor who, he said, failed to follow protocol.