Florida prisons have temporarily stopped accepting new inmates, the Department of Corrections confirmed Wednesday. The move is aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus in state correctional facilities, although it shifts the responsibility of housing offenders to local officials.
The policy went into effect Monday.
In a statement issued Wednesday, department officials said they are restricting the intake of inmates and “new commitments from counties” until March 30. They emphasized the timeline could change following further consultation with public health officials about the virus, officially known as COVID-19.
The decision to halt the flow of inmates into the state’s prison system, which houses around 96,000 offenders, comes one week after Department of Corrections officials cancelled visitation privileges until April 5. However, prisoners’ lawyers are still allowed to have face-to-face visits.
State prison officials reassured the public on Tuesday that the department is “fully prepared to handle any potential cases of COVID-19 within the state operated correctional institutions in Florida.”