(de)CARcerate Broward County
Sign On Letter
This statement was written and released by Chainless Change, an organization that we work in solidarity with. The demands listed in the statement were crafted by a coalition of South Florida organizations and community members, including CHIP and Chainless Change.
Dear Community Stakeholders:
This spring, Chainless Change and a coalition of local organizations, leaders, and elected officials came together to demand that the jail population be reduced in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Together, we worked to support the release of people who are incarcerated, while also highlighting systemic failures to provide adequate healthcare in Broward County’s correctional facilities. Despite the persistent unwillingness of county governments and law enforcement bodies to establish genuine partnerships with community organizers, we still made significant headway; over 1200 people were released from detention. However, the last month and a half has brought about an increase in incarceration rates throughout Broward County — in fact, the numbers are right back where they were when we launched our petition on April 2nd.
In addition, the physical and mental health needs of those held in Broward County correctional facilities continue to be neglected. The Sun Sentinel recently reported that, on September 27th, an incarcerated pregnant woman in a Broward County correctional facility begged for medical attention but was ignored for hours, even after subsequently going into labor. Jail staff denied the woman access to proper medical care until shortly before her baby was born. This was not only unconscionable, but a violation of state law. The actions of the facility’s staff violated the Tammy Jackson Healthy Pregnancies for Incarcerated Women Act, passed earlier this year as a direct response to a strikingly similar case of pregnancy-related negligence, in yet another Broward County correctional facility.
This newly-reported violation fits into a long-standing pattern of institutionalized failures to ensure the health, safety, and basic human dignity of incarcerated individuals. While two jail administrators have been fired as a result of the September 27th incident, it is simply not enough. It should not take media exposure and community-wide protests to ensure Broward County Correctional Facilities are held accountable to implementing ethical, legally required standards of care to those housed in their facilities.
As such, we demand:
- An immediate, thorough, and transparent investigation of the September 27th incident, followed swiftly by a public report detailing what happened. Report must also include a detailed and transparent plan about the steps that will be taken to remedy the harm caused.
- The aforementioned report must include actionable policy measures that will ensure future compliance with all laws pertaining to the health and safety of incarcerated people in Broward County.
- Termination of Wellpath’s contract as the healthcare provider for Broward County correctional facilities, and complete transparency around the budget available for these services (and how it is currently being allocated), so that a suitable replacement entity such as Broward Health or other local provider(s) can be identified and contracted for physical and mental health services.
- Increased transparency and accountability regarding the grievance process in Broward County correctional facilities, to include the implementation of a citizen’s review committee with the authority to investigate incidents, subpoena records, and make recommendations for disciplinary action, including prosecution, with regards to negligence, abuse, and/or policy violations.
- Complete closure of the Broward North jail facility, followed by a detailed plan for depopulating and closing other local institutions. The said plan should include increased and accessible diversion programs.
- The State Attorney’s office must create lasting alternatives to incarceration for individuals with mental health conditions, and people who are pregnant, or who are otherwise medically vulnerable.
- Full and complete transparency with the general public about the status and severity of COVID-19 cases within Broward’s correctional facilities.
- Full and complete transparency with detained persons and the public about COVID-19 and the status of cases in all local institutions. This must include increased access to public health information related to COVID-19, expanded access to COVID-19 testing, and increased access to necessary cleaning supplies and personal protection equipment (PPE) for those in the custody of Broward Sheriff’s Office.
- Broward County correctional facilities must allow free, unlimited phone calls from jails so that incarcerated persons can communicate directly with their loved ones during COVID-19.
- Broward Sheriff’s Office must immediately stop charging those jailed for physical and mental health services.
- Broward County must make increased investments in health and wellness for incarcerated persons, to include access to daily outdoor recreational activity, access to fresh and healthy food in sufficient portion sizes, and access to medical care, mental health services, and substance use treatment options, both in-person and remote.
- Broward County correctional facilities must expand emergency housing options for those exiting incarceration, who are at increased risk for homelessness.
- Broward County must mitigate negligence, violence, and the potential loss of life at the hands of the criminal legal system by taking all possible measures to immediately reduce local jail populations (including following the COVID-19 decarceration plan that was previously shared with the general public), and by supporting policies aimed at preventing chronic overpopulation of local correctional facilities. This includes, at a minimum, the immediate release of every person qualified for cash bail who is at increased risk for COVID-19. In particular, anyone who is pregnant, anyone who is 50 years of age or older, anyone who is living with HIV/AIDS, and anyone who is otherwise medically vulnerable must be released. Individuals who have identities that have shown to be risk factors for contracting/dying from COVID-19, such as being a person of color, being LGBTQIA, and/or being a person with disabilities, should also be given priority consideration for release.
Chainless Change, Inc.
Black Lives Matter Alliance-Broward
Broward Young Black Progressives
COVID-19 Hotline for Incarcerated People (CHIP)
United we Dream
Florida Immigrant Coalition
Florida Justice Center
Women’s March Florida – Miami Chapter
Food Not Bombs
Broward for Progress
Florida Immigrant Action Alliance
COVID-19 South FL Mutual Aid Coalition
Women’s March- West Palm Beach