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Sarasota County advocates want stricter COVID-19 protocols in jails

3 Polk County inmates die of COVID
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Posted at 8:00 PM, Sep 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-08 20:28:23-04

POLK COUNTY, Fla.  — Three people jailed in Polk County died from COVID-19 in August, according to the Medical Examiner’s Office. That's the highest number of COVID deaths since the pandemic started.

There are more than 2,800 inmates in Polk County jails, 492 have received at least one vaccination shot.

A spokesperson for The Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) tells ABC Action News, they give COVID tests to new inmates as soon as they arrive and offer them a vaccine.

As of August 7, 33,378 inmates currently incarcerated have received their vaccine while in FDC custody.

“They’re complaining about not being able to be actually treated for their symptoms. They’re only receiving Tylenol and that’s twice a day,” said Alaina Martinez.

Martinez is the founder of The Leaders Rights Organization. The group is holding a protest Thursday, demanding better treatment of inmates with COVID-19 in Sarasota and Manatee County jails.

“An inmate that I spoke to in Manatee County, he was like 'I had it, no one ever gave me a test.' He was like the 'officers are trying but they’re short-staffed,'” said Melanie Lavender with 941 Coalition for Justice.

Advocates also want to see both inmates and staff provided with more masks, regular testing and COVID protocols to be enforced.

Advocates said jail cells are packed and many people have not been convicted of a crime but often can't post bail.

“Have all these protocols but they are not being carried out properly because of staffing, because you know the inmates are being held in there are with petty charges. A lot of people can be released it’s a pandemic,” Lavender said.

Lavender said they also want more transparency on the number of inmates who have died from COVID-19.