Local and National Civil Rights Organizations Take Legal Action, Urging Miami Jail to Immediately Release People Ahead of Deadly COVID-19 Spread - Advancement Project - Advancement Project

Local and National Civil Rights Organizations Take Legal Action, Urging Miami Jail to Immediately Release People Ahead of Deadly COVID-19 Spread

Media Contacts:
Maya Boddie, 757-788-9182, [email protected]
Joshua Garner, 240-326-3874, [email protected]

 

At the height of the coronavirus pandemic one of the most dangerous places to be is in jail

MIAMI, FL – Today in federal court, Advancement Project National Office, Community Justice Project, Inc., Civil Rights Corps, GST LLP, and Dream Defenders, filed a lawsuit against Miami Department of Corrections calling for the release of vulnerable people inside the city’s jail and arguing that Miami’s Metro West Detention Center is risking the lives of everyone inside because of their deliberate indifference illustrated by their failure to respond to the threat of COVID-19.

[CLICK HERE TO READ FULL COMPLAINT]

This lawsuit seeks the immediate release of all medically vulnerable people from the Metro West Detention Center. For those who remain in the jail, the lawsuit asks a federal judge to order the City of Miami and Metro West jail to immediately adopt the comprehensive measures outlined by the Center for Disease Control to protect the safety and health of those people inside the jail.

“Metro West is a petri dish for the coronavirus. People are crammed together in dorm-style bunks, 60 people to a cell, without access to the basic things that we have on the outside. They have no hand sanitizer, no gloves, no ability to distance. On top of that, there are broken toilets and sinks, and dirty bathrooms with standing water,” said Maya Ragsdale, a movement lawyer with Dream Defenders. “We’re seeing throughout the country, from Chicago to New York City, that COVID-19 spreads like wildfire in jails. This is a ticking time bomb and officials in Miami must act now to release as many people as possible from cages.”

“I am trying my best to take care of myself in the midst of this pandemic, no different from you, no different from any other human being. But it’s impossible to do that at this jail. The cell is filthy and we have no access to hygiene products. Today [on April 3rd] I had to make a mask out of my yellow sock and an elastic string from my catheter bag. We are crowded together with no space between us,” said Anthony Swain, a 43-year-old man with paraplegia and cystic myelomalacia who is incarcerated in a medical unit at Metro West Detention Center. “Corrections treats us like we are the scum of the earth, like we don’t deserve protection.”

On a typical day, jails provide inadequate health care and are places that cause serious harm to the people confined there.  Now, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, the stakes are heightened.

“The prospect of a COVID-19 outbreak in Miami-Dade jails is a horrifying but imminent eventuality if we don’t take swift action to decarcerate jails like Metro West, which continues to hold 1,820 people to this day. Failure to act would amount to a death sentence for some of the people held there, especially those who are medically vulnerable and practically incapable of protecting themselves from contracting the virus due to the conditions of the jail,” said Meena Jagannath, Co-Founder of Community Justice Project, a local non-profit justice legal organization supporting campaigns for racial justice and human rights.

If people incarcerated in the Metro West were to become infected with COVID-19 and the virus were to spread rapidly, many of the people incarcerated there  would require urgent care, overwhelming the capacity of Miami’s Health Services and exacerbating the death toll and the risks to all involved. Swift action at the federal, state, and local levels will prevent the spread of COVID-19 inside prisons, jails, and detention centers, while having an enormous impact on the wellness of the rest of the country.

Thomas B. Harvey, Justice Project Director at Advancement Project National Office, explains that, “Judges have the power to protect public safety in the COVID-19 pandemic by releasing as many people as possible. We know that jails are incapable of providing adequate healthcare in general, let alone during an outbreak like we’re seeing today. People in the jail, those who work there, and the general public are at greater risk if we leave people inside than if we let them return home.”

“Based on everything we know, and everything we have seen so far, COVID-19 presents a serious risk to incarcerated people and once in the jail, will spread viciously,” said Alex Twinem, attorney for Civil Rights Corps. “Releasing people from cages is the fastest way to stop this crisis. Crowded conditions and close living quarters make following the CDC’s social distancing guidelines impossible. Ensuring people in jail have what they need for proper hygiene is also essential. Without action, it is only a matter of time before a catastrophic outbreak.”

Quinn Smith, managing partner for GST LLP, said, “We are honored to support our long-time partners, Community Justice Project, as well as the Advancement Project National Office and Civil Rights Corps, in this fight. We stand in solidarity with these organizations and with those who are currently incarcerated under clearly substandard conditions.”

In efforts to heavily 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.

Advancement Project National Office is working with grassroots organizations as part of a national campaign to shine a light on the country’s reliance on incarceration and get communities to re-imagine public safety. In the case of this legal action, it is important to remember that people are released from jail each and every day to start again in society. This is no different.

###

KEEP READING

Advancement Project Statement on Murder of Adam Toledo

Today, we join Chicago in grief and outrage at the murder of Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old Latino boy whose life was cruelly taken by Chicago Police. We express our deepest sympathy to Adam’s friends and family; we stand in solidarity with organizers, activists, and the broader Chicago community as they take to the street to express their despair and demand justice.

Read More
Mapping Injustice: Navigating the Criminal Legal System 101

Grassroots organizers are leading the fight to dismantle the incarceration state. In its current form, the criminal legal system criminalizes and incarcerates people of color in the name of “law and order.” In 2021, Advancement Project National Office, along with Michigan Liberation, Close the Workhouse, Neighborhood Defender Service Detroit, Detroit Justice Center, and East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Reform Coalition (EBRPPRC), partnered to present a forum series on the various phases of a criminal case: Policing, Arrest, and Pretrial Trial, Sentencing, and Plea Negotiations Incarceration and Re-Entry During each session, organizers and lawyers mapped the…

Read More
Advancement Project Statement on Daunte Wright’s Murder, Police Claims of Accidental Discharge

CONTACT Alex Jordan [email protected] 404-558-3581 WASHINGTON – Today, in response to the police murder of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, Advancement Project National Office’s Thomas B. Harvey, Program Director of the Justice Project, issued the following statement: “We are heartbroken and outraged at the murder of Daunte Wright. We stand in solidarity with Daunte’s family and the Black and Brown Minnesotans who are sharing their grief, outrage, and disgust after police have taken the life of another Black man in their state. “Daunte Wright was murdered by a police officer only miles from where George Floyd…

Read More
Civil Rights, Racial Justice Organizations Applaud Biden’s Executive Order Aimed at Facilitating Voter Registration, Urges Robust Implementation and Tracking

Media Contact: Elana Needle Email: [email protected] The Racial Equity Anchor Collaborative—the foremost diverse coalition of national racial justice and civil rights organizations representing and serving more than 53 million people in the United States—applauds President Joseph R. Biden’s recent executive action to make it easier for Americans to register to vote. Signed on the 56th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the new Biden executive order requiring federal agencies to submit plans to help facilitate voter registration invokes the legacy of the 600 activists, including the late Congressman John Lewis, who were attacked by law enforcement as they attempted to…

Read More
We Will Continue to Fight for You, Breonna

By Advancement Project National Office Photo by Maria Oswalt via Unsplash Breonna Taylor’s name and face have been shared around the world. Her murder by Louisville Metro Police in 2020 sparked a rallying cry for racial justice online, in protests, in courtrooms and in our homes. Her story is both unlike any other and a reminder of the countless community members we’ve lost from police and political violence. Today is the anniversary of when she was taken, and her presence continues to live through her family, her legacy, and the millions of lives she’s touched. In June 2020, Advancement Project…

Read More
Esri, and the Racial Equity Anchor Institutions Partner to Launch Survey on Policing Budgets Across Country

Washington, DC – On February 25, 2021 at 10:00 am ET, the Racial Equity Anchor Institutions and Esri will host a virtual press briefing on the launch of a new initiative to survey and track policing budgets in targeted areas around the nation. The new initiative is an effort to aid communities on their journey to better engage with and potentially reimagine what public safety looks like, neighborhood by neighborhood. Interested media can register to attend by visiting https://naacpheadquarters.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_eMlWidmDQgeG1qKqHWkdDg. 2020 and 2021 presented highs and lows across the country. It has been exhausting for our nation, communities, and…

Read More
Police Brutality in Rochester Proves that Police ‘Reform’ is a Myth

By Thomas B. Harvey, Justice Project Program Director Nothing short of police abolition will end the continued abuses of a system of policing designed to systematically oppress Black people and maintain a white supremacist status quo. Credit: Life Matters Last month, police in Rochester, New York pepper sprayed, manhandled, handcuffed and arrested a nine-year-old Black girl in obvious mental health crisis. This horrifying violence triggered a familiar and morbid routine: news coverage of this police brutality was met with strongly worded condemnations from political leaders, whose calls to reform policing were centered in the conversation; meanwhile…

Read More
Advancement Project National Office Issues Statement on President Biden’s Executive Orders Addressing Racial Equity

“We acknowledge and commend the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to make racial equality a legislative priority and center piece to their agenda."

Read More
Fighting for Voting Rights is How We Honor Dr. King’s Legacy

By Jorge L. Vasquez, Jr., Program Director, Power and Democracy until every eligible voter has equal access to the polls and every voting age citizen is eligible to vote without unnecessary and unwarranted interference, there will always be citizens who, as Dr. King coined, “cannot live as a democratic citizen.” “So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote I do not possess myself. I cannot make up my mind-it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact-I can only submit…

Read More
Police Continue to Protect White Supremacy

If this attack on the Capitol showed one thing, it’s that law and order only applies to Black and Brown people. By Marques Banks, Justice Project Staff Attorney As the nation watched white supremacists storm the United States Capitol, I thought about how police react in strikingly different ways to white protesters versus Black protesters. I am a lawyer who has supported protests over police murders from Mike Brown to George Floyd. I was in the streets and personally watched as my friends, colleagues, and other protesters were beaten, teargassed, and arrested in massive numbers for exercising their…

Read More