Data about COVID-19 cases and deaths at the privately-run Blackwater River Correctional Facility in Santa Rosa County, Florida hasn’t been reliable.

On April 27, Blackwater reportedly had 48 COVID-19 positive inmates, 10 positive staff, and five deaths.

As of this writing, Blackwater River reports only 17 positive tests ever, and doesn’t show deaths, while the Florida Department of Health shows seven deaths at the facility and 121 cases for all Santa Rosa county correctional facilities this week (which would include Blackwater River CI and Santa Rosa CI) which reports 14 positive cases total).

The issue of prison reporting has been highlighted by the Miami-Herald and others due to a lack of transparency in the total cases, tests, and deaths within the prison system.

The Orlando Sentinel published a gut-wrenching expose about the treatment of sick prisoners at the Blackwater River CI in April.

One mother recounted hearing about how her son, Cynard Bailey, became sick at the Blackwater River CI, and how he was afraid they were going to die because of the conditions in the prison.

“A lot of people are going to die,” Bailey wrote to his mother. “The pain is just too unbearable for old people because it affect[s] too many areas of your body at once.”

Cynard Bailey, an inmate at a privately run prison near Pensacola, sent messages to his mother reporting his battle with fever and other symptoms indicative of COVID-19. From the Orlando Sentinel.

“We can’t get any information,” said Ellis, 70. “This is inhuman. …. I am scared I will lose my child,” his mother said to the Orlando Sentinel.


The deceased we could identify from Blackwater River CI are listed below. If you know any of those who have died and would like to submit an alternative photograph or add to his obituary, please email us at Contact@FloridaCovidVictims.com.

Jeffrey Francis Sand, from Florida Department of Corrections.

Jeffry Sand, 69, died April 9, 2020.

From the Miami-Herald:

On April 5, when Florida’s positive coronavirus cases were one-sixteenth the number they are today, 69-year-old Jeffrey Sand went to the infirmary at Blackwater River Correctional Facility, a privately managed state prison near Pensacola.

He complained of shortness of breath — and of a cough and diarrhea. Four days later, he was put back in his cell. He died there that same day, found sprawled on the floor of his cell, next to the door. The medical examiner says it was COVID-19, the first such death in the state prison system — but far from the last.

Until Monday, all the public knew was his name, and only because reporters confirmed it with the medical examiner in Santa Rosa County shortly after. No one knew that he was sent back to his cell by the infirmary while apparently on the verge of death. Sand was one of 2,443 inmates in the state who tested positive for COVID-19 and one of 25 who died.

FDLE: Positive COVID-19 test. Blackwater Correctional inmate. On 04/05/2020 the decedent presented to the infirmary with SOB, cough and diarrhea. On 04/09/2020 he was escorted from the infirmary to his cell when he laid down in front of the cell door, went unresponsive and was pronounced deceased shortly after at the facility.

William B. Wilson, from Florida Department of Corrections.

William Wilson, 84, died April 12, 2020

FDLE: The decedent was a Blackwater River Correctional inmate. Admitted to Santa Rosa Medical Center on 04/03/2020 and was positive for COVID-19. Medical history of COPD, HTN and GERD.

Rafeal Rosario, from Florida Department of Corrections.

Rafeal Rosario, 65, died April 15, 2020

No FDLE file found, but his case was confirmed by multiple outlets, including the Miami-Herald. On April 17, the following report was issued about Rosario and Bannerman’s deaths:

Rafael Rosario (pictured left), 65, died April 15, and Jessie Bannerman died April 16. As we previously reported, 69-year-old Jeffrey Sand, died April 9, and  84-year-old William B. Wilson, died April 12, according to the District One Medical Examiner’s Office.

Wilson, Rosario and Bannerman died in the hospital, while Sand passed away inside the prison. Rosario was serving 15 years for a Palm Beach County manslaughter, and Bannerman was serving a life sentence for robbery with a weapon.

Jessie Bannerman, from Florida Department of Corrections.

Jessie Bannerman, 66, died April 16, 2020

No FDLE record.

Dana Peterson, from Florida Department of Corrections.

Dana Peterson, 72, died April 27, 2020

FDLE: The decedent was pronounced at SRMC and was an inmate with Blackwater Correctional. Admitted on 04/10/20 with diagnosis of pneumonia and COVID-19.

Larry D. Lay, from the Florida Department of Corrections

Larry D. Lay, 71, died May 7, 2020

FDLE: 71 y/o w/m positive COVID-19 case. Admitted to Sacred Heart Hospital on 4/15 from Blackwater River Correctional Institute.

Vincent Palmieri, from NC funeral services of Milton, FL

Vincent Palmieri, 66, died May 19, 2020

Prisoner at Blackwater River CI, died May 19, 2020. Not included in FDLE data.