Commissioner Sally Heyman is trying to get Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and his staff to take a much stronger role over running the corrections system in the county.
The move comes as an inmate, Carl Dixon, in jail on a misdemeanor of panhandling died two days after he was taken into custody. Sources also indicated there was trouble with the emergency 911 system when trying to get him outside help.
Dixon was arrested for aggressive panhandling August 16. Court records show, on the 18th, the state attorney listed his case as "no prosecution." One source says Dixon should have been released prior to Sunday afternoon but it never happened.
An internal Miami-Dade Corrections report said: "While completing my daily paperwork, observed inmate Carl Dixon lying on the ground having what appeared to be a seizure. (Corrections) officer M called medical emergency via radio. Medical staff nurses ....responded."
But sources said, when corrections staff tried to use the 911 phone system within the Turner Guilford Knight jail for outside help, there were malfunctions, and ultimately a delay.
"To hear in this situation that a 911 call was put in and not processed because the system failed is one more example of an entire department, an entire operation that is problematic," Heyman said.
Dixon is one of four inmates at the facility who have died since April while being under corrections supervision. Two of them were at the jail, and the other two at the justice center complex. Inmate Joaquin Cairo, who was also being held on a misdemeanor, died after being taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital. Inmate Kenneth Williams says he jumped to avoid being stabbed after cell doors malfunctioned.
Now Heyman, the public safety expert on the commission, has written a memo to Gimenez, telling him to place corrections on a management watch.
"I want a full supervisory sweep of the entire corrections department. From its operation — from its intake – to its supervisors – to their training – to their use of money," she said.
Heyman cites: shoddy construction, poor training of intake personnel, delays when police drop off inmates, lack of medical coordination with JHS, and health risk to staff.
"We have multiple issues. Significant problems that are systematic of a system, a department that is extremely broken to the detriment and the death of several people," she said.
Jackson Memorial Hospital says the 911 system was working properly two days before Dixon became ill. The corrections department says Dixon's case is under investigation and it referred all questions about Commissioner Heyman's request to County Hall. The mayor is reviewing her call for change.
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