People pleading to have their loved ones let out of jail as COVID-19 spreads

Posted at 6:48 PM, Feb 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-05 18:48:55-05

LABELLE — The Hendry County Jail is reporting one new case of COVID-19 over the past week. That brings the total to 35 positive inmates right now.

We also learned over the past week, at least one of the inmates who tested positive for COVID-19 became very ill from the disease. We spoke with several people who have family members in the jail who tell us they’re worried the same could happen to their loved ones.

We met up with Erelisha Bell as she spoke with her husband Ivan via video chat.

"Is there people in there still sick like that?” said Erelisha Bell.

"Yeah, one of my friends, he’s got COVID-19. Plus he’s got blood clots and stuff," said Ivan Bell.

Ivan Bell tested positive for COVID-19, along with 34 of his fellow cell mates. One of them got on the call and told us he’s worried because he has asthma.

“These nurses in here, they’re not doing anything. The jail staff’s not doing anything. We’re just like sitting ducks in here," said the inmate.

"Their emotions is taking control of them. They’re thinking that they’re going to die in there. They’re thinking that worst case scenario, because they’re not getting any help," said Erelisha Bell.

Over at the jail, we met Maria Menedez. She came to ask about the status of her son.

"I’m afraid for him, and he’s afraid for his own life," said Menendez.

Menendez said she’s convinced, if the jail had been doing its job, her son wouldn’t have COVID-19.

"I have taken him to the doctor and he tested negative, and now, after six, seven months, all of a sudden he tested positive for COVID-19," said Menendez.

The Hendry County Sheriff’s Office responded to us, saying it followed every protocol it could. It has isolated the positive inmates away from the rest of the jail population, and it said a nurse is available if anyone shows symptoms, but for Erelisha Bell, that’s not good enough.

"Free them. Let them go. I don’t want my husband to die in jail," said Erelisha Bell.

The Sheriff’s Office tells us it doesn’t have the authority to just free inmates. It said that has to be done by a judge. That’s called a "compassionate release", and the Sheriff's Office said it only happens if an inmate is very sick. The one inmate who did have serious symptoms over the past week is convicted for murder, and not eligible for release.