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“Forgotten Floor” Inmate Dies At Hospital

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Joseph Wilner, 59, was being held in the psychiatric ward of the Miami-Dade County Jail.
(Source: Miami-Dade Corrections)

Joseph Wilner, 59, was being held in the psychiatric ward of the Miami-Dade County Jail.
(Source: Miami-Dade Corrections)

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South Florida Crime

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – An inmate on the ninth floor of the Miami-Dade County Jail has died at the hospital.

CBS4 Chief Investigative Reporter Michele Gillen has reported a number of times on the deplorable conditions on the facility’s ninth floor where inmates with the most severe mental illnesses are housed.

Joseph Wilner, 59, was found unresponsive Monday in a cell in the jail’s psychiatric ward, known by insiders as “The Forgotten Floor.” He was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he died.

Wilner is the third psychiatric-ward inmate to pass away this year.

Wilner was arrested after authorities say he was caught driving with a suspended license.

The cause of death and the nature of Wilner’s medical conditions are unknown.

The so-called “Forgotten Floor” has come under scrutiny in recent years for subpar conditions.

Monday, four current and former Miami-Dade corrections officers protested conditions at the county’s main jail known as TGK or the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center.

The corrections officers say the issues range from intimidation and retaliation to physical problems including overflowing sewage lines and rat infestations.

As for Wilner’s death, Miami-Dade Police are investigating, which is routine for every death in Miami-Dade jails.

In all, eight Miami-Dade jail inmates have died this year of various medical ailments.

In July, wheelchair bound inmate Joaquin Cairo reported he had been thrown into his bed by another inmate, following an attempted sexual assault while on the 9th floor psych ward. Cairo broke his pelvis and suffered internal bleeding. He died of his injuries.

Miami-Dade Judge Steve Leifman, an advocate for the mentally ill, questioned whether Cairo received timely care after the injury.

Three months earlier, another psych ward patient, Juan Matos-Flores, died after jailers found he had collapsed.

Last month, the director, the doctor in charge of medical services for the jails and another administrator resigned. All worked for Jackson Health System, which runs medical care for the county jails.

The U.S. Justice Department is monitoring the jail system. In 2011, the department concluded a three-year probe, saying the nation’s eighth-largest jail system engaged in a “pattern and practice of constitutional violation” of the rights of inmates housed in deplorable living conditions under abusive, inadequate or limited care.

In April, Miami-Dade County and Jackson Health agreed to a long and expensive list of improvements to how the system treats inmates, particularly those who are mentally ill or suicidal.

As part of the deal, the county agreed to build a new mental-health facility, long championed by Judge Leifman, to replace the ninth-floor psychiatric ward. So far, supporters still are waiting for ground to be broken for the facility.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed material for this report.)

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