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]

COVID-19 deaths in federal prisons rise to 15; about 700 staff and inmates sick

By: - April 15, 2020

COVID-19 killed two more inmates this week at a federal prison in Lisbon, Ohio, one of 10 hotspots among the nation’s 122 federal prisons. Fifteen inmates have died of the disease in three federal prisons since April 1. So far, Florida’s nine federal prisons, with 10,000 inmates, have reported no fatalities. The U.S. Bureau of […]

Nearly in ruin, FL oranges rebound during pandemic as consumers recall immunity-boosting powers

By: - April 15, 2020

Oranges are as iconic for Florida as sunny days, Mickey Mouse and sandy beaches, but orange growers have long been struggling, beset by severe weather, a grove-killing bacteria, and adverse market conditions. Hundreds of growers gave up. It looked like it was time for Florida’s old-school citrus industry to morph into something else or die. […]

Amid COVID-19 fears, long-imprisoned man likely to be exonerated is set free

By: - April 14, 2020

Leonard Cure, sentenced to life in prison for a robbery he probably did not commit, will go free after being imprisoned for 16 years because a state attorney’s conviction review unit believes further investigation will fully exonerate him. With COVID-19 spreading among inmates being held in close quarters, the Innocence Project of Florida and the […]

Federal prisons mark 10th inmate COVID-19 death, none yet in FL

By: - April 13, 2020

Update on death toll: Shortly after this report was posted, three more fatalities from COVID-19 on Sunday and Monday were announced, all being inmates of Butner Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, NC, ranging in age from 46 to 81. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons, which operates federal prisons around the nation, says the death toll […]

Sierra Club seeks veto of sunscreen bill that could damage coral reefs

By: - April 13, 2020

Sierra Club of Florida wants Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto legislation that would block Key West and all Florida cities from banning certain sunscreens believed to damage coral reefs. The legislation prohibits any city from banning any kind of sunscreen. The bill sponsor, State Sen. Rob Bradley, said sunscreens’ efficacy at preventing skin cancer outweighs […]

In the holiest of days, some faith leaders urge followers to commune online; others choose to gather in person, without fear

By: - April 10, 2020

Faith leaders urging people to worship at home during holy days this month want religious followers to “commune” by sharing observations on social media, such as #StayHomeStayHoly. Sister Simone Campbell, Rabbi Sharon Brous and Muslim scholar Wajahat Ali joined Congressman James Clyburn, chair of the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis, this week to […]

Inmate infections spike at state prisons; feds report first case among U.S. prisons in FL

By: - April 10, 2020

Update: Hours after publishing this report, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons reported that a second federal facility in Florida has at least one employee infected with COVID-19. The first was Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Sumter County. The second is a Federal Detention Center in Miami, holding 1,023 inmates arrested but not convicted who could […]

COVID-19 is forcing big changes for Floridians and their rights, but is all of this strictly legal?

By: and - April 8, 2020

In trying to maintain public safety in a COVID-19 world, Florida’s state and local governments have directed people to stay at home, closed businesses, established checkpoints against out-of-state travelers, even arrested a church pastor. That these orders may infringe upon civil liberties seems a realistic danger. Especially disadvantaged are prison inmates close to proving they […]

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 […]