Inmates, Correctional Officers Concerned About Growing Number of COVID Cases at Miami Prison

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It’s an unusual bond sending out a warning to a section of South Florida—inmates and officers are joining hands to say the growing number of COVID cases at the federal prison can spill over into the community.  

The numbers from the federal prison here in South Florida show that the number of cases here has more than doubled in the last six days, and the families and the correctional officers are saying that unless there’s some real action taken by the Federal Bureau of Prisons—the hospitals and the community around are going to be severely impacted.

“Everybody is really concerned,” one father told us. NBC 6 is not revealing the identities of family members who are in touch with the men held at FCI Miami.

Last Thursday, 20 inmates and one worker had tested positive, according to numbers from the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Wednesday afternoon, the prison’s website shows 79 inmates and seven staffers tested positive.

“The virus—how it was brought into that facility—is very suspect. Even the guards know that what’s going on right now—how the inmates are being confined is in humane. It’s just not right,” the father said.

NBC 6 obtained one email coming within the last 24 hours from an inmate to his family saying in part, "Everyone is sick, mom. They stopped testing our temperatures on Saturday...They don’t want to test us because they want to keep the numbers low. WE ALL HAVE IT RIGHT NOW!!!!!!!!! THEY JUST TOOK ANOTHER PERSON FROM OUR UNIT LAST NIGHT BUT THEY ARE OUT OF ROOM IN QUARANTINE. I DON'T KNOW WHAT THE NUMBERS ARE SHOWING ONLINE BUT ITS ONLY A FRACTION OF WHO REALLY HAS IT. PEOPLE ARE COUGHING DAY AND NIGHT."

“So, we have all seen how the numbers can multiply quickly, and having a pool of of COVID-19 with inside that facility and having people who come and go from that facility every day, it’s definitely going to affect the community,” the family member of another inmate told us.

Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel Powell has been writing the Federal Bureau of Prisons expressing concerns about what was going on at FCI Miami.  The prison's back fence is next to Zoo MIami.  

“Prisons are petri dish for the virus to start spreading very quickly,” Mucarsel Powell said during a virtual meeting with other elected leaders and infectious disease expert Dr. Aileen Marty from FIU. “When they are coming in and out of these prisons, they are going back to their family members spreading COVID, which, in turn, overwhelm our health infrastructure."

Correctional officers told us they have to take sick inmates to area hospitals and Wednesday afternoon a check by NBC 6 found four of the area's biggest hospitals didn’t have any ICU beds. Jackson South did have 10 and there was a single bed at the hospital in Homestead. The correctional officers told us late last week of the pending trouble. 

“One of the hospitals that I don’t want to mention, their bed-space is at a critical level and they have been contacting us trying to get the inmate back to the facility, but the facility is the worst environment and we’re in a Catch-22. We might have to create a mobile tent, hospital," Kareen Troitino, the correctional officers union president, said.

And as an example, one officer Wednesday told us they picked up an inmate at a hospital with full blown COVID-19 and they had to drive him to another hospital.

The Bureau of Prisons told us last week they follow all the guidelines from the CDC and locked down the facility, but when it comes to these allegations of reducing the numbers, we have not heard back from them about the claims made by inmates and correctional officers.

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