About 4,500 inmates were left behind with nowhere to run to during Hurricane Irma prison evacuations in Florida. The inmates were abandoned when thousands of prisoners were evacuated during the storm. The prison evacuation has been termed as one of the largest in the US in recent times.

Over 7,000 prisoners were moved from local, state and federal prisons in Miami-Dade County, Florida. The inmates were moved to safer prison facilities as Hurricane Irma gathered momentum.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice returned prisoners to 2 of 5 prison units evacuated on 9/4.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice returned prisoners to 2 of 5 prison units evacuated on 9/4. Image Source: Star Telegram

But about 4,500 prisoners were left behind to fend for themselves Hurricane Irma prison evacuations. They were abandoned, with no chances of escaping the wake of the hurricane.

This raises the question of what happens to prison inmates when natural disasters hit?

Horrendous Conditions in Prisons after the Hurricane Irma

Ashley Cook, press secretary for the Florida Department of Corrections noted that most facilities in Miami-Dade were spared the ravages of the storm. But, during Hurricane Irma prison evacuations, they still suffered:

  • Considerable building damage
  • Extensive flooding
  • Power outages.

The press secretary said food and water had been supplied to inmates and staff across several prison institutions. And, the facilities were all secure – even as each institution assesses initial damage.

Hurricane Irma prison evacuations didn't go well, as nearly 4,500 inmates were left behind to fend for themselves.

Hurricane Irma prison evacuations didn’t go well, as nearly 4,500 inmates were left behind to fend for themselves.

Most of the inmates in prisons in the path of Hurricane Irma were moved to “safer” facilities. These are those deemed able to withstand serious flooding and powerful wind from the hurricane.

The only problem is that there will be overcrowding in the prisons as inmates are crammed tightly into facilities. This development is a serious issue for the prison system in Florida.

Locked Up Prisoner Shares Experiences During Hurricane Irma Prison Evacuations

Evacuating prisoners during terrible storms is not always a smooth event. It can be very devastating for whoever gets left behind and locked in with no way of escape. This is not the first time the authorities in both Texas and Florida have had to evacuate large prison populations – without absolute success.

460 inmates were transferred from Florida Keys jail before Hurricane Irma

460 inmates were transferred from Florida Keys jail before Hurricane Irma. Image Source: Local 10

4,500 Inmates in Florida Abandoned in Flooded Prisons

Inmates have faced unhealthy situations in flooded prison cells. Some have had to empty their bowels in poo bags since toilets become unusable. This has led to lack of water and food for several inmates and staff, leading to dehydration among other health incidence.

Furthermore, inability to communicate with the outside world has caused undue worries to families of inmates. These prison loved ones are extremely worried about the safety of their incarcerated family and friends. This is especially true since prison visits aren’t allowed during these trying times.

Read What Happens to Your Imprisoned Loved Ones During Natural Disasters?

Sherrard Williams is a prisoner serving a life sentence at a maximum security prison in Karnes County, Texas. He revealed what happened at his prison during Hurricane Harvey:

“When the water got cut off, you couldn’t use the restrooms in the cell,” he said. “Now you gotta watch what you eat, you gotta watch what you drink. They came around with some water and brought us sack lunches—sandwiches, things like that. I couldn’t eat because it was going to make me use the restroom, and then the whole cell is gonna be messed up.”

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Charles Omedo has a degree in Mass Communication and a PGD in Digital Communication. He worked as a newspaper/magazine reporter and editor for many years. Now, he writes daily news articles for private clients. Charles has written for US/UK/Canadian/Indian clients on various niches. He currently writes prison news for loved ones of inmates on the Prison Rideshare Network.