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Lee County Jail Inmate Recounts Harrowing Hurricane Ian Ordeal



As Hurricane Ian plowed its method towards Florida’s west coast earlier this week, Lee County declined to evacuate its downtown Fort Myers jail even if the power is situated in a compulsory evacuation zone liable to storm surges from the Caloosahatchee River.

Lower than 5 blocks from the river, the jail is a reserving facility the place most inmates are awaiting court docket proceedings — which means they haven’t been convicted of the fees for which they have been arrested.

On September 28, Hurricane Ian made landfall, packing winds of 150 mph and decimating Fort Myers and the encircling space. Its storm surge engulfed complete metropolis blocks of the southwest Florida municipality’s downtown district.

Late that night, following the publication of a New Occasions story in regards to the jail officers’ determination to remain put, Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno launched an announcement, declaring that inmates have been secure.

“In an abundance of warning,” the sheriff stated, inmates had been “relocated inside the principle jail to a better flooring.”

In distinction to the sheriff’s reassurances, the daughter of 1 inmate tells New Occasions that her mom, a 60-year-old Lee County resident, rode out the hurricane in determined straits alongside her fellow detainees on the downtown jail. 

The lady says her mom relayed to her that bogs have been overflowing with human waste and that jail employees was offering cloudy brown water to drink. Some inmates had turn into hysterical, her mom instructed her.

“They’ve bottled water for the officers, however clearly they do not give it to [the inmates],” the daughter says. (The 21-year-old, additionally a Lee County resident, requested that her identify not be printed for concern of repercussions for her mom for talking out.)

The daughter says that throughout the storm, as water seeped into the jail, inmates have been moved into the foyer space. She claims there have been stories of a hearth breaking out within the advanced and emergency responders urging the jail to think about an evacuation. “They stated no, that they weren’t going to evacuate. They have been simply gonna trip out the hurricane,” the daughter says, citing her mom’s narrative. 

The daughter provides that she known as the sheriff’s workplace to supply to donate water bottles, however {that a} employees member hung up after she complained about her mom’s lack of entry to ingesting water.

Potable water is scarce in Lee County as a result of the storm severely broken utilities within the area. Many residents and companies have unsanitary, contaminated water, or no water in any respect. The Military Corps of Engineers has been working with native officers to convey again potable water, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis stated on September 30.

Rene Suarez, the inmate’s lawyer, tells New Occasions that earlier than the storm hit, his consumer was set to safe a plea settlement that will have resulted in her launch. Although she was arrested September 14, she could not get a listening to scheduled till Tuesday, September 27, the lawyer says. The listening to was then canceled due to the incoming storm.

“Nobody was fascinated by inmates who had no alternative to depart. The vast majority of the individuals within the downtown jail haven’t been convicted of against the law,” Suarez says.

When requested in regards to the sheriff’s determination to not evacuate, Suarez says, “The jail is correct subsequent to the river. It is insane.”

Suarez, whose downtown regulation workplace was swamped with water throughout the storm, says he is working to free his consumer, however the native circuit court docket’s schedule stays unsure within the hurricane’s wake. The lady was booked for allegedly violating pretrial launch phrases in a DUI case.

Interviewed on Friday, the inmate’s daughter instructed New Occasions that her mom had been transported post-storm to the Lee County Core Facility, a medium/maximum-security jail with 1,216 beds that is situated a nine-minute drive inland from the downtown jail. She says her mom instructed her corrections employees there scolded inmates for relaying their issues about jail circumstances to members of the family.

New Occasions has spoken with family members of inmates on the core facility as nicely.

One lady, whose husband is incarcerated on the facility, tells New Occasions that as of Friday morning, he had been given solely three Styrofoam cups of water because the storm hit. He described to her how inmates have been with out energy –– and thus air-conditioning –– whereas officers on the facility loved cool air.

Her husband instructed her jail officers had not ensured that inmates had an sufficient provide of their drugs.

“They aren’t giving meds,” she says. “They’ve those who have been taking psych meds that at the moment are not taking them, chilly turkey.”

The Lee County Sheriff’s Workplace hasn’t responded to New Occasions‘ request for remark because the afternoon the storm struck. Earlier than Ian made landfall, an LCSO spokesperson stated, “Within the occasion of an emergency, we have now procedures in place.”



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