Feds Uncover Abuse at Miami-Dade Jail

Officials claim corrections officers had a practice and pattern of abuse and neglect of inmates

By Todd Wright
|  Friday, Aug 26, 2011  |  Updated 6:17 PM EDT
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Feds Uncover Abuse at Miami-Dade Jail

Miami-Dade jail is not a safe place, report concludes.

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A U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the Miami-Dade County jail system has concluded inmates are routinely abused, refused mental and physical medical care and are constantly at risk for disease.

The scathing 40-page report goes into great detail about the deplorable conditions within the county’s Corrections and Rehabilitation Department and claims employees willfully violate the constitutional rights of prisoners.

“We conclude that there is a pattern and practice of constitutional violations in the correctional facilities operated by MDCR,” the report reads, “… prisoners suffer grievous harm, including death.”

Miami-Dade jail officials declined to comment on the report.

A phone call to the state Department of Corrections was not immediately returned Friday after work hours.

“I am deeply concerned about the Department of Justice’s findings, and will be reviewing the progress that has already been made to address them,” Mayor Carlos Gimenez said in a statement. “The Department of Justice has my personal assurance that they will get total cooperation from Miami-Dade County in this matter.”

The investigation, conducted by the DOJ's Civil Rights Division, attributes at least eight suicides and five other deaths dating back to 2007 to the conditions in the jail.

During the investigation, which started in 2008, DOJ officials concluded the county is “deliberately indifferent” to the serious medical and mental health needs of inmates. And when inmates do receive care, it is often inadequate.

Jackson Health System helps administer care to prisoners in jail. 

"Jackson Health System is working closely with Miami-Dade County to address the issues noted in the U.S. Department of Justice's report about conditions in our county jails, including the medical care provided to inmates," spokeswoman Jennifer Piedra said in a statement released Friday. "We are committed to finding quick, effective and long-lasting solutions that will ensure that all inmates are provided with quality and timely health care."

Another finding that sticks out in the report is the actions of corrections officers.

Officers “engaged in a pattern or practice of using excessive force against prisoners,” the report stated. “Corrections officers openly engage in abusive and retaliatory conduct, which frequently causes injuries to prisoners.”

Corrections officers were also accused of looking the other way when violent incidents occur and failing to supervise the most violent of criminals in the jail, the report said. Inmates are also not protected from sexual abuse at the hands of other inmates, the report stated.

In a letter to Gimenez and county commissioners, DOJ officials warned that the Civil Rights Division could file a lawsuit against the county to get the problem fixed.

"The deficiencies we identified are serious and systematic, and we anticipate that a court-enforceable agreement will be necessary to remedy them," the report said.

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