MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The clock maybe ticking on a countdown to close the ninth floor of the Miami-Dade Jail, which is home to inmates with mental illness and the subject of seven years of CBS4 news reports.
On the heels of recent disclosures and questions over the deaths of three inmates in three months from the so-called “Forgotten floor,” the United States Department of Justice has issued a scathing and pointed letter to Miami-Dade County, urging “Prompt removal of prisoners from the Ninth Floor.”
“It gives me hope that there will be change and prevent more deaths on that floor,” Miami-Dade Chief Public Defender Carlos Martinez told CBS 4 Chief Investigative Reporter Michele Gillen.
Gillen was the first to share the September 10th letter with Martinez.
According to the letter, the DOJ is now asking Miami-Dade County to “immediately implement an interim mental health care plan to address deficiencies for the 9th floor.”
Meanwhile, it also raised serious questions about a recent security breach at the TGK correctional center, which the DOJ said it learned about through media reports. They said the preliminary reports on the incident in which a prisoner was chased by other prisoners, jumped two stories and was severely injured are alarming.
And finally, the DOJ raises questions about how the county conducts investigations into the deaths of prisoners.
“That is significant,” said Martinez, adding, “a problem for a long time.”
Deputy Mayor “Chip” Iglesias told Gillen he was shocked to receive the DOJ letter and indicated that the DOJ might not be relying on correct facts regarding jail conditions and to whether they played a role in the deaths. He said, though, that what everyone is in agreement with is that there is a better way to house inmates with mental illness and those locations for future facilities are being explored, including a visit Thursday to one such potential place near Krome Avenue.
“We are going to be responding to the letter,” Iglesias said. “We have an agreement with Department of Justice which is our path, our road map to get the inmates out of the 9th floor,” said Iglesias