WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A Florida lawmaker is making a plea for the early release of some inmates in an effort to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus in correctional facilities.
State Sen. Bobby Powell, a Democrat who represents District 30 in Palm Beach County, is requesting “anyone who’s up for release in the next couple of months, anyone who’s elderly and does not provide a threat to the health and safety of the general population, be released, so those people are not sitting in a prison facility while this pandemic is occurring."
Powell, who is the incoming chair of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, said he plans to send a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis urging for the early release.
“If it gets into our prison system, which it appears two inmates already got it in northwest Florida, it will spread very rapidly, and we’ll have a number of casualties, much more than what we have on the outside,” Powell said Tuesday in an interview with Contact 5 reporter Michael Buczyner.
Powell said the early release will hopefully alleviate the spread of COVID-19 in Florida’s prisons.
“Every day we’re seeing the number of people who are testing positive for coronavirus go up. If that gets into our prison system, which it appears it’s starting to get there, within a number of days or a week, we will see catastrophic happenings. We want to prevent that,” said Powell.
The state senator said he hopes the current health issue will be an opportunity for both political parties to come together on the issue.
But not everyone supports the proposal.
"The PBA does not agree with [State Sen.] Bobby Powell on this stance," said John Kazanjian, the President of the Police Benevolent Association for Palm Beach and Martin counties.
In an interview, Kazanjian told Contact 5 he doesn't "think the prisoners should be released just because of this" COVID-19 outbreak.
"I think that’s a knee-jerk reaction," said Kazanjian, who also raised concerns for the victims, "they get victimized, they get some justice, then they send them to jail and next thing you know were going to let them out because there’s a virus going on, I disagree."
“We want to work with the governor. We’re all in this together. This is not a time for partisan politics, not a time to be Democrat or Republican. This is a time we work together fort the whole state of Florida,” said Powell.
READ THE LETTER HERE: