[Washington, D.C.] The Justice Department (DOJ) has released a scathing report on the unconstitutional treatment of prisoners under the care of the Miami-Dade County Corrections and Rehabilitation Department (MDCR).
The comprehensive investigation, launched in April 2008 in accordance with the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), revealed that MDCR engaged in a “pattern or practice of constitutional violations” in their jail facilities.
“The systemic failures of the jail facilities have resulted in prisoners living in inhumane and shocking conditions,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Our findings show that due to the unconstitutional operation of the MDCR jail facilities, prisoners have suffered grievous harm, including death.”
The extensive investigation focused on the protection of some 7,000 prisoners from harm in all six jail facilities operated by MDCR, which runs the eighth largest jail system in the nation.
Through CRIPA, the Justice Department came up with a host of unconstitutional treatments at MDCR-run jails, including inadequate medical and mental health care, use of excessive force, inadequate protection from violence by other prisoners and numerous health and sanitation deficiencies.
“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,” said Mayor Gimenez in a prepared statement. “The Department of Justice has my personal assurance that they will get total cooperation from Miami-Dade County in this matter.”
The 40-page findings letter paints a pretty bleak picture of the MDCR facilities. Since 2007, eight prisoners have killed themselves and thousands have suffed due to “constitutionally inadequate mental health care.” Five additional deaths were attributed to MDCR’s failure to give the necessary medical care to prisoners suffering from withdraw symptoms related to drugs or alcohol.
Metro West Detention Center
The DOJ’s findings also detail MDCR’s inadequate initial screening and health assessments for new prisoners and their complete lack of treatments for those with chronic illness. Those prisoners with HIV, diabetes, hypertension or histories of seizures routinely were denied the required medications.
The findings letter also reveals a pattern of prisoner abuse at the hands of corrections officers at the facilities, saying that officers “openly engage in abusive and retaliatory conduct, frequently resulting in injuries to prisoners.”
Apparently, it had gotten so bad that MDCR C.O.’s were regularly slapping or punching the prisoners in the head and/or verbally inciting a physically response when a prisoner would use abusive language or passively resist an officer’s order. A clear violation of MDCR policy and the constitutional rights of the prisoners.
Prisoner on prisoner violence was also rampant, thanks to a lack of supervision in housing units. Just before the department launched its investigation, nearly 675 incidents of prisoner assaults on fellow inmates were reported by MDCR.
“The Justice Department is committed to remedying these deficiencies, and we look forward to working with MDCR to develop and implement comprehensive reforms,” added Perez.
For his part, the mayor seems like he is taking the findings letter seriously. On Thursday, Gimenez met with corrections management and staff – including Jackson CEO Carlos Migoya and MDCR Director Timothy Ryan – to go over the report and talk about Miami-Dade’s “ongoing efforts” aimed at addressing the horrific treatment of prisoners and less-than-adequate supervision detailed in the Department of Justice report.
Download the Justice Department’s findings letter here.
By: Mark Christopher/Sunshine Slate
Images: Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Dept. website Resources: The U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of Florida press release, Mayor Gimenez press release