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Miami-Dade jails found to abuse prisoners

Aug. 29, 2011 at 5:55 PM

MIAMI, Aug. 29 (UPI) -- Federal investigators say they found a pattern of constitutional violations at Miami-Dade County jails, the eighth-largest jail system in the country.

In findings included in a report issued Monday by the U.S. Justice Department, the Miami-Dade County jail system, which holds about 7,000 inmates on any given day, was found to provide inadequate medical care and mental healthcare, including improper suicide prevention. The Miami-Dade jail staff was found to use excessive force on prisoners and doesn't do enough to prevent inmate-on-inmate violence, Justice officials said in a release.

In addition, the report concludes, the six Miami-Dade County Corrections and Rehabilitation Department facilities have environmental health and sanitation deficiencies.

The Justice Department investigation began April 2, 2008.

"Our findings show that due to the unconstitutional operation of the MDCR jail facilities, prisoners have suffered grievous harm, including death," said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division. "The systemic failures of the jail facilities have resulted in prisoners living in inhumane and shocking conditions."

He said the department is committed to remedying the problems and working with Miami-Dade officials on to "implement comprehensive reforms."

The report states there have been at least eight prisoner suicides since 2007, and since 2008 at least five other prisoners died from the jail staff's failure to identify and treat those withdrawing from drugs or alcohol.

Thousands of inmates have had inadequate mental healthcare, the report adds.

Abusive behavior by jail staff includes "a disturbing and distinct trend of MDCR corrections officers reacting to low-level aggression from prisoners [e.g., abusive language or passive resistance to an order] by slapping or punching the prisoner in the head and verbally provoking the prisoner to physically respond."

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