NAACP says they are very happy with LCSO response to Lee County Jail fire

Reporter: Anika Henanger Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:
An image of smoke billowing from Lee County Jail complex on Ortiz Avenue in Fort Myers Wednesday, May 20, 2021. It was determined to be an electrical fire that started on the rooftop of the jail. Credit: Fort Myers Fire Department.

The NAACP Executive Committee, along with Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno, held a press conference regarding a fire emergency and incident that happened Monday at the Lee County Jail Core Facility, 2501 Ortiz Avenue.

The Lee County NAACP has requested Sheriff Carmine Marceno to join the news conference.

After reports of poor conditions by inmates and families of inmates, the NAACP requested a walkthrough tour of the facility, which was granted by the sheriff. Inmates also claim that excessive force was used.

NAACP President James Muwakkil said, “When doing the walkthrough, they were very thorough in pointing out everything. We went to where the fire started on the top of the roof. We went to the different floors where the inmates were being housed … There was no excessive force.”

He went on to add that no one was denied medical attention or denied use of the phone.

Muwakkil said while seeing inmates in the common area during the tour, no inmates said their rights were violated.

They are confident the sheriff’s office did everything it could to keep inmates from the fire and smoke.

But the families of the inmates were disturbed after the roof of the Lee County jail caught fire on Wednesday evening. Muwkkil says many of those families contacted him.

“Probably like maybe, a couple of dozen,” Muwakkil said.

All of them were anxious to hear that their loved ones were okay. Muwakkil says incarcerated or not, you deserve care. “One of the things you never lose, whether you’re incarcerated or not, is the right to healthcare,” Muwakkil said.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office actually encouraged the NAACP to request that tour and ask questions about what happened when those fire alarms went off.

Sheriff Carmine Marceno said, “Deputies began moving inmates to a secure recreation yard obviously out of the way of any kind of harm and that was done immediately.”

Sheriff Marceno says, within one hour they were able to relocate 268 inmates and provided medical treatment to those in need. Two inmates and two officers were treated for smoke inhalation at the hospital and quickly released.

The sheriff credits the fire drills that are conducted quarterly for an orderly evacuation.

The NAACP wants to reassure families about what they saw with their own eyes and what they heard for themselves, that their loved ones are okay.

A few of the families say while it is good news that their loved ones are safe, some say they still haven’t heard from their loved ones inside the jail since the fire happened. President Muwakkil says there’s no reason to worry.

“No reason for concern at all. We want to make sure we’re very clear no inmates ran to the windows trying to get our attention, regarding any type of violation of the rights of their physical bodies or their health,” Muwakkil said.

MORE: 2 inmates, 2 deputies evaluated after fire on Lee County Jail rooftop

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