Media Relations Associate
Miami (March 26, 2020)—Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, in partnership with the Freedom Fund, has taken urgent action to reduce jail populations across Florida in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, releasing dozens of people held in pretrial detention simply because they cannot afford to pay their bail.
As of March 14, Miami’s three jails alone reportedly held nearly 4,000 individuals, more than 70 percent of whom are presumed innocent as they await their day in court. A vast majority of these people will be released at some point before their trial, whether on bond or other non-monetary conditions, and could be released en masse now. But officials have been slow to act, even as the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths ramp up across the state—a move that could devastate the poor, black and brown communities who are disproportionately harmed by unaffordable money bail.
“The novel coronavirus requires a novel response. We can’t maintain the status quo and expect this pandemic to work itself out,” said Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “Every day we keep someone needlessly incarcerated during this crisis is a matter of life and death and we can’t delay action any longer.”
Florida has already surpassed 1,200 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with Miami-Dade leading the state with 278 cases, and Broward closely following with 263. Bailing out those detained in Miami jails awaiting trial will curb the spread of the virus not only among the vulnerable jail population living in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, but beyond the jail to the broader Miami community.
“Refusing to decarcerate now, in light of all we know about the coronavirus, makes absolutely no sense and risks spreading the virus further, not only through the jail population but through much of South Florida,” said Scott Greenberg, executive director of the Freedom Fund. “With support from Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, we’ll be able to bring direct intervention where it’s needed most and ensure a safer and more just criminal legal system.”
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
We are a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that has worked to realize Robert F. Kennedy’s dream of a more just and peaceful world since 1968. In partnership with local activists, we advocate for key human rights issues, pursuing strategic litigation at home and around the world. And to ensure change that lasts, we foster a social-good approach to business and investment and educate millions of students about human rights and social justice.
The Freedom Fund is a non-governmental organization established to secure the release of LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ individuals from jail and immigration detention, connect those individuals to needed support services, and build a critical mass of individuals in opposition to the mass detention of LGBTQ people. Marginalized by family, employers and the criminal legal system, sexual minorities are three times more likely than heterosexual individuals to be incarcerated and according to the U.S. Department of Justice, 10 to 20 times more likely to be sexually assaulted in prison or jail.