Alachua County release inmates to avoid COVID-19 spread

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) – Both the Alachua County public defender office and state attorney office say they have been actively reviewing inmates for possible release in efforts to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19.

“This unprecedented pandemic that we are facing in Alachua County warrants a review of all persons who are currently detained in the Alachua County Detention Center to see if they should be released,” Stacy Scott, Alachua County public defender, said.

While Scott believes her team's reviewing the release of inmates during this time is crucial, the state attorney office says that urgency needs to be reconsidered.

“There is a national movement trying to take advantage of the coronavirus situation by demanding the release of people … putting out a lot of false narratives about the danger in the jail. I talked to the sheriff. The jail is well-equipped and well-familiar with trying to manage medical situations,” Bill Cervone, Alachua County state attorney, said.

Scott recognizes the efforts to keep the jail sanitary but believes a bigger effort from the state attorney office to release inmates is needed.

"We want to get them out sooner before we get the situation where someone gets into the jail on a new arrest and the virus gets in ... despite the jails best efforts -- and they’re doing a terrific job trying to keep the jail sanitized and to screen for these things -- but the issue is that we all know it can happen and we’re just trying to get people out who aren’t a threat."

The issue is, Cervone believes he and Scott's offices differ on the idea of 'low-risk.'

“The first thing people need to understand is there is a reason why everyone sitting in jail is there ... public safety comes first. This situation does not amount to a Monopoly 'get-out-of-jail-free' card. We have looked at many, many cases that we have been asked to look at for release and agreed to some and we have not agreed to others,” Cervone said.