The conditions in some of the local jails have been called deplorable. The federal government has been monitoring the situation at the jails because of the sub-standard living conditions, and in particular, the treatment of mentally-ill inmates. In fact last week, officials from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) visited Miami-Dade County jails as part of the ongoing federal oversight. Most Miami criminal lawyers visit the local jails at least once a week. Having visited each facility on dozens of occasions, one can easily understand why the federal government is involved in improving the local jail system. One of our attorneys recently visited a female client who was locked up on the psychiatric floor of the Pre-Trial Detention Center. The conditions there resembled the living conditions depicted in the jail scenes of Silence of the Lambs.
Recently, a mentally ill inmate charged with the misdemeanor offense of criminal mischief appeared in court in a wheel chair. The defendant suffered numerous injuries including a fractured pelvis during an attempted rape inside one of the facilities. A week after his court appearance, the defendant was court ordered to Jackson Memorial Hospital where he passed away from his injuries. As a result of the death, Miami-Dade police department investigators are looking into the inmate's death as the federal oversight continues to evaluate the problems. The investigators are trying to find out if the inmate received the proper medical care after sustaining the injuries.
One the biggest proponents for mentally ill inmates happens to be a County Court Judge. He has attempted to shut down the jail's psychiatric facility for years. Judge Leifman was quoted as saying, "This was avoidable. This should not have happened. You should not get the death penalty for a misdemeanor because you have a mental illness." The inmate that died had a long history of mental illness including schizophrenia. He has one previous arrest on misdemeanor charge, but other than that had no criminal record. After complaining to the judge about his injuries, the inmate was taken to the rape treatment center at Jackson where he was evaluated an later returned to the psychiatric floor. He was later rushed to the emergency trauma center where he expired.
The Miami-Dade Police Department is investigating the death as they are responsible for looking into all inmates deaths from homicides to deaths related to natural causes. Currently the investigation is ongoing as investigators are still collecting witness statements and awaiting the final report from the medical examiner's office. In 2011, the DOJ completed a report regarding the living conditions in the Miami-Dade County jail system. They concluded that the jail system, the eighth largest in the country, is substandard and replete with constitutional violations. They concluded the living conditions were deplorable and that the care provided was abusive, inadequate or limited. As a result of the findings, the county agreed to an extensive list to improve the treatment of inmates, especially those that are mentally ill or suicidal.
Police Probing Miami-Dade Death of Mentally Ill Inmate, Miami Herald.com, July 26, 2013.