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MIAMI (CBSMiami) –They are cells stained with secrets of decades past, of muffled screams and broken dreams.
It’s the 9th floor of the Miami-Dade Detention Center.
Decade after decade, largely out of sight of the public, inmates suffering from severe mental illnesses who were charged with a crime, in many cases misdemeanors, found themselves detained there in some cases for months if not years.
In 2007, CBS4 News brought in cameras for the first time to document the conditions. Last year, crews returned to shine the light again.
Now one year later in a historic ending to a chapter, the 9th floor which has been dubbed ‘the forgotten floor’ has been closed.
“It is thrilling on one level but kind of sad that it has taken so long. A lot of people have been hurt or died up there,” said Judge Steve Leifman, Chair of the 11th circuit Mental Health Project, who met with CBS4 Chief Investigative Reporter Michele Gillen in the lobby of the Miami-Dade Detention Center.
Gillen also met with the Assistant Director of Miami-Dade Corrections Daniel Junior.
“We are very proud. This is a monumental day because this is a step in the right direction. It is a step in the direction of more therapeutic and human treatment for these individuals that suffer from mental illnesses,” said Junior.
Gillen asked Judge Leifman what it meant to her.
“We have finally closed the 9th floor, thanks to you. I don’t think the public ever would have understood how horrendous the situation was but for your reporting. And it led to where we are today,” said Leifman.
In a complex assignment some 400 inmates were transferred to a temporary new home – six newly retro fitted wings at the Turner Gilford Knight Corrections Center.
Nearly all agree a better and more appropriate fit.
“There is a calm that you get when you walk in here,” said Junior.
As opposed to the old facility where inmates could not call 911, the new wings allow for access.
“If you dial 9-911 all can dial out,” revealed Junior.
There are be cameras in every cell to monitor inmates.
At most two inmates will share a cell which are equipped with safety beds and running water.
“I am excited about it. We all are,” shared Captain E. Denson, Director of the Miami-Dade Pre-Trial Detention Center.
“We are finally getting to a point where we are going to do this right. This is the beginning, not the end of a whole new phase,” concludes a hopeful Judge Leifman.
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