Hurricane Idalia: Florida evacuates 4,000 prisoners from 35 facilities

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida prison officials evacuated 4,000 prisoners from 35 facilities statewide as Hurricane Idalia barreled up the west coast of the state on Tuesday.

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According to a news release from the Florida Department of Corrections, inmates from some of the state’s smaller prisons, work release centers and work camps were moved to more secure lodgings equipped to handle a storm that could be a Category 3 hurricane by the time it makes landfall on Wednesday.

Notably impacted was the Cross City Work Camp in Dixie County, which is located in Dixie County in the state’s Big Bend area, the Tampa Bay Times reported. Inmates from the Tallahassee Community Release Center in the state’s capital were also impacted, according to the newspaper.

Officials were preparing to deliver extra food and water to prisons in the hurricane’s path, the Department of Correction stated in its news release.

The Lake City Correctional Facility in Columbia County, located halfway between Jacksonville and Tallahassee, is operated by CoreCivic, a Tennessee-based private prisons contractor, WTSP-TV reported. The company also manages the Citrus County Detention Facility in Lecanto, located about 76 miles north of Tampa.

CoreCivic spokesperson Brian Todd said both facilities had backup generators and the company will coordinate with local emergency response agencies, according to the television station.

State prisons that might be impacted by Idalia also suspended visitation for several days, the Times reported. They were located in Bradford, Hardee, Jefferson, Madison, Marion, Madison, Sumter, Suwanee, Union and Volusia counties, corrections officials said.

Levy County, whose jail contains 150 inmates, does not plan to evacuate the facility.

“We have withstood lots of rainfall in the past,” jail spokesperson Lt. Scott Tummond said. “I don’t see anything being any different in this event, other than we’re looking at much higher wind speeds if we take a direct hit. The structure is hardened and capable of withstanding, I think, a (Category) 5 hurricane. So, the infrastructure of the building itself is probably the safest place in the county.”

Tummond added that generators were in place of expected blackouts.

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