By David M. Reutter
PLN previously reported that Florida's Martin Correctional Institution (MCI) had been evacuated as a result of bad water. [See PLN, May, 2000: Bad Water Causes Florida Prison Evacuation.] That report was based solely upon media reports that relied exclusively upon misinformation by MCI officials.
The media was unable to report that bad water at MCI was a daily fact for over 7 months preceding the October, 1999 evacuation. In March, 1999 MCI officials placed a sign at the employee/visitor entrance informing them not to drink the water at MCI. To make this possible officials installed bottled water dispensers in the guard stations, and sold bottled water in the visiting park vending machines. Prisoners were not informed of the bad water, and bottled water was not available in the prisoner canteen.
As a result of the bad water there were periodic epidemics of diarrhea among the prisoners.
The general population cells at MCI have white ceramic toilets that are used by the prisoners to determine if the water is safe to drink. If the water had a yellowish tint, it was a bad water day. Boiled water notices were a regular event a MCI, regularly put out two days after the water turned yellow. No facilities are available to MCI prisoners to boil water and attempts to do so with homemade utensils resulted in disciplinary action. Bottled water would be brought into the dormitories when MCI went on boiled water status. However, only one-five gallon bottle was brought in every eight hours for each quad, which houses 56 prisoners.
Prior to officials evacuating MCI on October 26, 1999, the prisoners endured three days of boiled water status. No running water was available during that period. This meant that there were no showers, toilet flushing or laundry services. Portable toilets were not set up until the morning of the emergency evacuation.
When MCI was evacuated, only the 700 open population prisoners were transferred. There were nearly 500 prisoners housed in MCI's administrative, disciplinary and close management units who were not evacuated. Those prisoners endured a two week period without running water in their cells. They were given an eight ounce cup of water, and taken to the portable toilets, once every eight hours.
Water quality at MCI is still in question as the institution run water treatment plant is bypassing the filtration system and is only chlorinating its water.
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