Several civil rights groups have filed a federal lawsuit against the Miami-Dade County corrections department seeking an emergency order to release medically vulnerable inmates at one of its main jail sites.
The lawsuit contends that the MetroWest Detention Center is a “petri dish” for the virus and that inmates lack basic protections.
“People are crammed together in dorm-style bunks, 60 people to a cell, without access to the basic things that we have on the outside. They have no hand sanitizer, no gloves, no ability to distance,” said Maya Ragsdale, an attorney with the group Dream Defenders, in a news release.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of seven of the jail’s roughly 1,800 inmates. The seven plaintiffs are all men between the ages of 23 and 59 who suffer from various medical conditions, including diabetes, asthma, epilepsy and others.
According to the Miami Herald, 26 prison staff and civilian contractors and two inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 at The Florida Department of Corrections, which "houses inmates convicted of crimes and serving more than a year behind bars."
Only two inmates at the Miami-Dade County Corrections and Rehabilitation department have been tested for the virus, and both were negative, the Herald said.
The lawsuit states that 15 people who work in Miami-Dade County jails have tested positive and that "hand sanitizer, masks, and gloves are in short supply."
The lawsuit also points out that Jackson Memorial Hospital, the facility where the jail sends people in custody who require serious medical attention, is already experiencing a shortage of supplies as intensive care units begin to reach capacity.
It alleges that the Miami-Dade County Corrections and Rehabilitation department has not taken the steps it claimed it would to protect the health of employees and inmates.
"Immediate release of medically vulnerable Plaintiffs, as well as the subclass of medically vulnerable people they represent, is a necessary public health intervention," the lawsuit argues.
A telephone hearing on a request for a temporary injunction on the release of certain inmates was set for Monday afternoon before U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams. The corrections department declined comment on a pending legal case.