Laura Cassels

Laura Cassels

Laura Cassels is a reporter, former statehouse bureau chief, and former city editor. She is a classical pianist, a Florida State University graduate and proud alum of the Florida Flambeau, an independent college newspaper. Contact her at [email protected]

Virus expands in FL state prison system, with employees, inmates infected; U.S. prison infections rising

By: - April 7, 2020

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Florida’s state-run prisons and probation offices rose to 41 on Tuesday, up from 12 in just one week. There were 37 confirmed infections among employees at 17 corrections facilities and three regional probation offices. In addition, four inmates tested positive, all at the privately run Blackwater Correctional Facility in Santa […]


Voting-rights allies claim victory in battle over campus voting sites

By: - April 6, 2020

Students may vote early at on-campus sites after all, now that Florida’s chief elections officer has agreed to authorize local elections supervisors to set up such sites. The League of Women Voters of Florida announced Friday that a legal fight launched in 2018 along with the Andrew Goodman Foundation and eight young Florida voters has […]

Failed legislation would have helped inmates get out as virus spreads behind bars. Now, deaths have begun

By: - April 5, 2020

Reform-minded lawmakers sponsored legislation in 2020 that would have allowed low-risk, elderly and sickly inmates to be released before coronavirus took hold in Florida’s prisons. But it didn’t pass, and the dangerous virus has arrived. On Sunday, a state prison inmate in Santa Rosa County became the first confirmed case of COVID-19 infection among Florida’s […]

One week after first fatality, 7 federal prisoners now dead from COVID-19

By: - April 3, 2020

Seven federal inmates died of COVID-19 this week in hospitals near the prison facilities where they contracted the disease, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. None are in Florida. U.S. prison authorities said the inmates, all male, ranged in age from 43 to 65 and had underlying medical problems that made them highly vulnerable […]

Federal prison infections double overnight; 12 FL prison staff have COVID-19

By: - April 2, 2020

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in federal prisons doubled in one day, from 28 on Tuesday to 57 on Wednesday, although none were reported in Florida, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. The number of confirmed infected employees rose from 24 to 37, also with none in Florida. The bureau’s report was dated Wednesday; by […]

As virus spreads into prisons, lawmakers call on Gov. DeSantis to release the most vulnerable inmates

By: - April 1, 2020

As cases of COVID-19 are being confirmed in Florida prisons, a Democratic Congresswoman and a state representative called on Gov. Ron DeSantis Wednesday to release qualified inmates most at risk of contracting and possibly dying of the disease. “Priority considerations should be given to all medically ill inmates that do not pose a threat to […]

State prison system reports 12 employees infected by coronavirus; no inmates yet

By: - March 31, 2020

Twelve prison employees in Florida have tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus that has expanded across the globe. The Florida Department of Corrections said there were no inmate infections so far among the 96,000 people incarcerated in Florida prisons. The DOC reported Tuesday that three employees at the privately […]

FL lawmakers call on Gov. DeSantis to block evictions as rent comes due for jobless citizens

By: - March 31, 2020

With monthly rent due on the 1st, Florida renters facing job layoffs and uncertainty about unemployment benefits don’t know if they are safe from eviction, a group of Florida lawmakers said Tuesday in an press conference webcast from their various homes. They called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to order a halt to evictions, period. A […]

DeSantis’ order on checkpoints to impede Louisiana motorists heading to FL could face legal challenges

By: - March 27, 2020

Impeding travelers coming to Florida from areas highly infected with coronavirus may or may not be good public health policy, but its constitutionality and fairness likely will be challenged. “These issues raise some serious constitutional questions,” says professor Stephen Griffin, at Tulane Law School in New Orleans. The virus is rampant in Louisiana, which is […]

Visitors flock to national parks after Trump waives fees; FL and other states close their parks

By: and - March 26, 2020

The Trump administration has encouraged Americans to head to national parks as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, but Florida and several other states have closed their state parks temporarily or indefinitely to protect both visitors and staff. Outdoors enthusiasts longing to head outdoors can still find places to hike, bike and paddle but the […]

algae bloom

Clean-water coalition asks governor to veto watered-down legislation

By: - March 24, 2020

A coalition of 50 clean-water organizations in Florida are calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto the 2020 Legislature’s “Clean Waterways Act,” insisting it won’t clean up the state’s polluted waterways and will falsely give the impression in an election year that pollution is under control. “If signed into law, CS/CS/SB 712 will only make […]

A chief consumer advocate in FL may face term limits; will they benefit Floridians or not?

By: - March 24, 2020

The Office of Public Counsel, the chief advocate for consumers in proceedings before the Florida Public Service Commission, may face term limits that might not benefit Floridians, critics say, though lawmakers approve of the move. At issue is legislation that would have removed long-time Public Counsel J.R. Kelly ahead of anticipated hearings on utility rates. […]