BROWARD (CBSMiami) – A Broward County jail inmate died Wednesday of COVID-19, the Broward Sheriff’s Office said. The agency said the inmate died at Northwest Medical Center in Margate after being taken there a few weeks ago after refusing a routine medical test in a jail facility.

BSO did not release the inmate’s identity but they said he suffered from pre-existing medical conditions and no foul play is suspected. BSO says the inmate was taken to the hospital on March 31 and the next day he tested positive for COVID-19.

Gordon Weekes, Executive Chief Assistant Public Defender for Broward County, said his office represented the man. Weekes said he wants BSO and the State Attorney’s Office to work on putting nonviolent offenders on house arrest or community control and releasing inmates who are scheduled for release in the next 60 days.

“The clock is ticking and now that we have a death inside the jail associated with COVID-19, we have to take some very prudent yet drastic measures to reduce the jail population,” Weeks said.

Weeks also said he wants to see inmates given PPE, like masks, and isolated or quarantined in the facility.

“The jail has to make some very tough decisions,” he said. “Either you do nothing and put your head in the sand and watch this growth within the jail explode and then have a number of individuals sick and requiring significant health care attention or you take prudent measures and get ahead of it so you don’t have this crisis later on.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office said they have taken numerous proactive measures to deal with the pandemic, including screening all new inmates for COVID-19 before they enter the facility and suspending all in-person visitation, instead using video visitation. BSO said they have implemented alternatives to arrest, including giving Notices to Appear or Civil Citations for misdemeanor and nonviolent offenses. Plus, BSO says the jail is undergoing in-depth cleaning of high traffic spaces.

A BSO spokesperson also said that judges are looking at the jail population to see if low risk offenders can be released.

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