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BOP Evacuates Federal Prison in Florida After Possible Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Around 2:45 a.m. on July 16, 2023, a suspected carbon monoxide (CO) leak led to evacuation of staff and over 450 prisoners from the minimum-security satellite camp at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Coleman, Florida. Five people were hospitalized with possible CO poisoning, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).

Just a week earlier at the complex 50 miles northeast of Orlando, disgraced U.S. Olympic Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar was stabbed by a fellow prisoner, as PLN reported. [See: PLN, Sept. 2023, p.62.]

The source of the CO leak was not disclosed, though typically it is blamed on a faulty gas heater or hot-water heater. Because the gas is both odorless and colorless, it can easily build up in a human body and cause CO poisoning. The “silent killer” replaces oxygen in red blood cells with CO, resulting in “serious tissue damage, or even death,” according to the Mayo Clinic. If symptoms are present, they are easily confused with those of the flu.

BOP officials stressed that “at no time was the public in danger.” Sumter County Emergency Management Director David Casto said 500 prisoners and staffers were evacuated, 13 of whom were treated for CO poisoning and five sent to a hospital—three prisoners and two employees. No life-threatening injuries were reported.

The prison is understaffed according to local union officials. Guard Jose Rojas, who serves as President of Local 506 of the American Federation of Government Employees, organized a protest in June 2023 to highlight vacant guard positions at the Federal Correctional Complex, which holds 6,200 prisoners in both low- and medium-security sections of FCI-Coleman, as well as a pair of high-security U.S. Penitentiary units.  


Sources: ABC News, WFLA

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