Miami-Dade County

Florida women’s prison loses pump; some inmates complain they have to buy drinking water

Florida’s Lowell Correctional Institution — among the largest women’s prisons in the country — has been without water for several days, state officials confirmed Monday.

A water pump broke after being struck by lightening on Saturday, according to Michelle Glady, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Corrections.

Relatives of some of the inmates insisted that prisoners were being forced to buy their own water from the prison canteen, and some of them have been going thirsty. However, Glady insisted that all the women were being provided with water at no cost.

A local fire department has brought a tanker to the prison to provide water. The prison, located in Ocala, houses more than 2,600 inmates in two buildings.

“They say they're bringing water in but they're telling the girls they have to buy it off the canteen,’’ one former Lowell inmate said on Facebook. “They have no water to bathe in nothing — no AC in the dorms.’’

Glady said in addition to the water, the prison’s geothermal system, which cools the dorms, was also affected, although Glady said it was working on Monday.

Another woman, whose sister is at the prison, said families have been told that fans have been brought in to cool the prison.

“They say they brought fans, but there are no fans, no running water at all and they are making them buy it,’’ said the woman.

Glady said maintenance staff responded immediately over the weekend, and the geothermal line for cooling the prison has been repaired. A new water pump is expected to be installed Tuesday, she said.

All inmates have access to drinking water. Toilets and sinks are operational using non-potable water being brought in to the institution,’’ the department said in a written statement.

“We are working around the clock to get the systems back up,’’ Glady said.

The institution was built in 1956 and is the oldest state prison facility for women, according to the department’s website. It currently houses female youthful offenders as well as pregnant inmates in its Annex, Main Unit and Work Camp.