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Federal Probe Rips Miami-Dade Corrections, Calls Jails Unconstitutional

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(Source: AP)

(Source: AP)

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A years-long investigation into the Miami-Dade Corrections Department claims to have uncovered a “pattern and practice of constitutional violations” in jail operations, with prisoners suffering “grievous harm, including death” as a result of the unconstitutional operation.

The findings mirrored in part conditions revealed in an award-winning series of reports by CBS4 Investigative Reporter Michele Gillen under the name “The Forgotten Floor”.

The report, made public Friday, is the result of a probe started by the US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division in 2008. The 40-page report detailed findings of a three and a half year investigation, and represents a scathing indictment of the corrections system.

READ THE FULL REPORT WITH THE COUNTY’S RESPONSE

In part, investigators found that:

  • Miami-Dade Corrections is “deliberately indifferent to suicide risks” and mental health needs of prisoners, resulting in 8 suicides and thousands of prisoners receiving inadequate mental health care
  • Miami-Dade corrections fails to provide adequate care and discharge services to patients with mental illness.
  • Miami-Dade Corrections is “deliberately indifferent” to the serious medical needs of prisoners, with inmates waiting “weeks and even months” to receive some medical services. The investigation also found that inmates did not receive proper health screening when they entered the system, with at least 5 prisoners dying of an undiagnosed overdose since 2008.

The investigation also painted the Miami-Dade jail facilities as brutal places.

  • Miami-Dade Corrections is “engaging in a pattern of using excessive force against prisoners”, abusing prisoners and routinely retaliating against them, resulting in frequent injuries.
  • The federal investigation said if the guards were not abusing prisoners, they looked the other way when inmates did, finding the county failed to supervise prisoners, particularly violent prisoners. It also said there’s significant evidence the county doesn’t protect prisoners from sexual assault.

The walls that contained this alleged thuggery and violence did not escape criticism by the feds. The report slammed the county for inadequate fire and life safety systems, health problems, poor sanitation, overcrowding and the risk of infection, inadequate pest control and even lousy laundry service.

The report delivered to the county 11 pages of remediation measures, or items the county needs to address to end the civil rights violations in its correction system.

The report did provide some encouraging news, saying the county has taken steps to fix some violations since investigators toured the jails.”We appreciate the Jail’s proactive efforts,” the report said.

“Nonetheless, the deficiencies we identified are serious and systemic, and we anticipate that a court enforceable agreement will be necessary to remedy them.”

The Justice Department also made it clear to the county that unless it cooperates, it could face a federal lawsuit.

The county Friday released a summary of the actions it claims to have taken to meet the concerns of the investigators, but newly-elected Mayor Carlos Gimenez released a letter saying he was “deeply concerned about these findings.

Gimenez said he met with Carlos Migoya, newly named CEO of troubled Jackson Health systems, which provided many of the health services slammed by the federal investigators. He also said he’s met with key members of Miami-Dade Corrections, and promised the county will be responsive and transparent in working with the justice department.

The Justice Department has given the county 49 days to respond and formulate plans to deal with the problems found in the report.

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