Federal Judge Orders Miami Jail To Follow CDC Guidelines Amid COVID-19 Outbreak
Local and national civil rights organizations win order to ensure the health and safety of people confined in Metro West Detention Center’s jail cells
MIAMI, FL – In federal court on April 29, Advancement Project National Office, Community Justice Project, Inc., Civil Rights Corps, GST LLP, DLA Piper and Dream Defenders, won an order for Miami’s Metro West Detention Center to follow the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) Health Guidelines for the next 45 days.
This preliminary injunction comes after the groups won a Temporary Restraining Order against Miami-Dade Department of Corrections on April 7, requiring Metro West Detention Center to provide basic sanitizing items to the almost 2,000 people confined there, to protect vulnerable people inside the jail.
“The decision to demand Metro West jail to follow the CDC’s guidelines to ensure the health and safety of people currently confined there is a step in the right direction,” the group said in a joint statement. “Since it is nearly impossible to practice social distancing in jail cells, it’s disappointing that the court failed to order the release of vulnerable people trapped living in the horrific conditions there. The lives of thousands of people are at risk, and we won’t stop fighting for them and their families.”
After an April 18 inspection of Metro West by expert doctors, the court agreed with the finding that “an urgent reduction in the population in this facility and increased screening for COVID19 infection among the staff and inmates to mitigate the spread of this infection within the community.”
Within the 53-page decision, the court makes it clear that social distancing is “simply not possible at Metro West without a dramatic, immediate reduction in the facility’s population.” The court goes on to conclude that social distancing “has not been and cannot be achieved absent an additional reduction in Metro West’s population or some other measure to achieve meaningful social distancing.”
Confinement conditions are so bad at Metro West that incarcerated people there have started a hunger strike to demand their immediate release. “The jail system isn’t equipped to keep us safe during the pandemic,” one participant – who requested anonymity for his safety – stated. “How long are we expected to sit in here? How many rights is the government allowed to strip away during a global pandemic?”
In efforts to pressure local and state governments to release people immediately, Advancement Project National Office and Dream Defenders have created advocacy tools as a call to action for #FreeAndSafe communities in Florida and beyond.
This case is one of several nationwide that aims to secure the release of thousands of incarcerated people who are in grave danger of contracting COVID-19. Advancement Project National Office and Civil Rights Corps have brought similar challenges in Detroit and Oakland, Michigan, and St. Louis. Civil Rights Corps is also challenging confinement conditions and release in Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, and Prince George’s County, Maryland.