- Faith & Family
With signs in hand, a small but relentless group recently announced that they will not rest until working conditions at the Miami-Dade County’s main jail facility has improved. They are also calling for the dismissal of Corrections Director Timothy Ryan.
The group met in front of the Miami-Dade Corrections Department headquarters in Liberty City and were led by retired corrections department employee Walter Clark. Joining him were several correction officers and local community supporters who say they hope to keep the pressure on Ryan and county leaders to improve the working conditions for jail-house employees. But Clark says there are other issues as well: assaults on corrections staff have risen; notices to jail employees alerting of the presences of inmates with infectious deceases such as tuberculosis are routinely sent out late; and their is a dangerous presence of rats, roaches, mold and mildew — all health hazards for staff and inmates.
As proof, Clark pointed to a letter dated August 24, 2011 from the U.S. Department of Justice under the Civil Rights Act of Institutionalized Persons Act, addressed to County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, notifying the county administration of the results of a three-year long investigation of Miami-Dade County’s jail facilities.
Among its findings, Miami-Dade County Corrections and Rehabilitation Department:
• Is deliberately indifferent to the suicide risks and serious mental health needs of its prisoners. At least eight prisoners have committed suicide since 2007.
• The level of cleanliness at the jail is poor.
• Bags of bio-hazardous materials and trash were stored in hallways unsecured and unattended.
• The stockade is infested with flies, ants and rodents.
• Inadequate emergency evacuation; fire and life safety system poses an unreasonable risk of harm to prisoners.
• The deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of the prisoners is life threatening, with some prisoners waiting weeks, even months before consulting with medical specialists on cases of HIV, cardiology and neurology.
Clark places the blame for the deplorable conditions in the county’s corrections facilities squarely at the feet of Ryan.
“It got bad when they hired Ryan,” Clark said. “He has failed everywhere he has been. And a lot of the officers fear for their careers. The rate that corrections employees are disciplined is twice as high as any other county department. Employees are harassed for taking their own sick time.”
One corrections officer shared his frustrations.
“The morale is low,” said Officer Alphonso Bruton, a 26-year veteran. “Mold, mildew, busted pipes, rats, roaches!”
Clark says the local union that serves law enforcement officers needs to get involved.
“The union is not responsive,” Clark added. “If we were police, the union would be all over this. But they pay the same dues!”
Ryan was unavailable for comment. We hope to speak with Gimenez as this story is updated. — firstname.lastname@example.org
By Gregory W. Wright
Miami Times writer