Acronyms used in this article:
DOH = Florida Department of Health
DOC = Florida Department of Corrections
ME = Medical Examiner’s office
Liberty CI = Liberty Correctional Institution
Data about cases and deaths in prisons frustrate our team to no end.
For example, DOC shows 34 “COVID-19 Related Inmate Deaths,” while DOH shows 29. There are 115 total deaths across DOC’s facilities listed as “natural” or “pending” since March 1. All COVID-19 inmate deaths verified through our project are listed as “natural” in DOC records.
But at least one is missing from the list of DOC deaths, or the list of DOH deaths.
An inmate at Liberty CI — John Doe for now — was transferred to Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare where he died on June 1. He was a 53-year-old black male, according to FDLE and ME records.
In FDLE records, his death is attributed to Leon county where he died, since the ME’s report was issued from Leon County. Typically DOH assigns deaths based on where the person lived, not where he or she died, and that’s true of correctional facilities in most cases, as well, we’ve learned.
However, in DOH’s case line data, no 53-year-old black male has died in either of those counties, and no one is reported to have died in Liberty on June 1, according to DOH’s deaths-by-date data.
Even though there was an article about a death at Liberty CI later in June (a man that does not fit the description of the inmate referenced above), as of this writing, DOC shows no deaths at Liberty CI since February.
From the FDLE report:
“The decedent … …was an inmate at the Liberty Correctional Institute. There had been numerous cases of COVID-19 positive inmates at the institute. He had been tested ~2 weeks ago and was negative at that time. For the last 3 days he had been having fevers, dry cough, shortness of breath, headaches, body aches, palpitations, and some nausea. He was taken to the Calhoun Liberty Emergency Room where a chest x-ray revealed bilateral lobar pneumonias. He was transported to Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare where a rapid PCR test for COVID-19 was positive. His medical condition continued to deteriorate and he was eventually pronounced.”
His date of death is listed as June 1, but the report of his death was not received by FDLE until June 8.
So… where’d he go? Why isn’t his death included in DOC’s records or DOH’s records? How many other “natural” and “pending” deaths in Florida’s prisons aren’t being reported by DOC, DOH or both? And how many people like our John Doe died and were never even recorded at all?
Perhaps if DOH could start responding to our multiple emails, this data apparition could be resolved.
You can download a redacted version of the FDLE data report for July 22, 2020 here. Please note, however, that not all deaths reported by FDLE/ME’s offices are reported in DOH records, and vice versa.