MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — More than 300 Manatee County Jail inmates were forced to move to a separate facility on Sunday evening due to the ongoing wastewater situation at the nearby Piney Point stack.
Manatee County Jail public information officer Randy Warren confirmed 345 inmates would be moved to “an undisclosed secure location in order to free up bed space for the remaining 721 inmates on the upper level of the Manatee Jail.”
Due to security reasons, full details are not being disclosed about where the inmates are being transferred to. Sources confirmed to WFLA Monday morning that at least some inmates have been taken to the Polk County Jail in Bartow.
“Sheriff Rick Wells and staff are still in constant communication with officials on the situation. We aren’t expecting more than a foot of water on jail property, in the worst-case scenario,” Warren said.
Hundreds of nearby residents are also under an emergency evacuation order as public safety officials warn of a potential uncontrolled wastewater breach.
Protesters had called for the evacuation of inmates hours before the order was officially given. A group stood outside a news conference held by Gov. Ron DeSantis and other emergency officials Sunday afternoon.
“Why would there be an evacuation zone but then people inside the jail, inside the evacuation zone, aren’t being evacuated,” said Bryan Ellis.
Manatee County officials had previously said models showed only one to five feet of water could impact the jail.
“The jail is a two-story facility. The sheriff has moved the medical unit and all personnel up to the second floor, which puts them well over 10 feet above the base level,” acting County Administrator Scott Hopes said.
Hopes said the jail was taking precautions to keep the inmates safe.
“They are secured. The ground floor of the facility has been sandbagged,” Hopes said.
“It’s going to affect their drinking water, it’s going to affect their quality of life. If other people have been evacuated out of the same area why, why would you leave the inmates there?” said Ellis.