They arrived in street-parked caravans carrying stark white banners and neon signs with slogans like, “Invest in people, not in prisons.”
Several of them donned black-and-white striped prisoners costumes as they gathered to the screech of the megaphone and the beat of a snare drum. Around 50 protesters were barred from the building by police tape.
Family members of prisoners and representatives of community organizations advocating for prisoners’ rights assembled in front of the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) public visitors entrance Thursday morning to protest recent cancellations of weekend visitations at several state institutions.
In the past month, weekend visitation has been canceled at 13 Florida prisons “in response to significant contraband recoveries” and subsequent investigation, according to FDC press releases. What is considered contraband can range anywhere from weapons and drugs, to cell phones and tobacco.
Though the cases have been preliminarily linked to “throw-overs” — individuals from outside the facility attempting to throw contraband over the perimeter fence — FDC press releases also announced the arrest of three correctional officers for the introduction of contraband during the same span of time and at the same institutions that had weekend visitations canceled.
In a phone interview, Michelle Glady, FDC communications director, made no comment on the contraband issues, stating only that, “We hope to resume normal visitation as soon as possible. We would never make permanent blanket cancellations to visitation at our facilities.”
This is not the first time the members of Supporting Prisoners and Real Change (SPARC), Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons (FTP) and Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) have assembled in Tallahassee to rally for inmates’ rights in Florida prisons.