Every prison movie includes at least one riot scene—inmates banging their metal cups in the dining hall to protest bad food and ill treatment. But have you ever heard of a protest by prison employees?
According to the Miami Herald, deplorable conditions at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Facility in Miami, Florida prompted a protest by four former and current correctional officers on August 26. Issues ranged from intimidation and retaliation to physical problems such as overflowing sewage lines and rat infestations.
“Every day we get employees calling from the jail saying they can’t even sit down and eat because the rats are falling from the ceiling. We took a picture of a rat lying next to a 20 ounce soda bottle; the rat was bigger than the bottle,” said corrections officer Alphonso Bruton. Administrator Greg Rollins said that “rats can be seen running rampant” around the jail.
Health inspectors who visited the prison kitchen this week did not find any evidence of rats. Corrections Department Director Tim Ryan responded to complaints by noting that pest control workers visit frequently, and on a recent visit they found only four rats. Three were in the outside garbage area, and one was caught in a trap inside the building.
“It is not a systemic issue,” Ryan said. “We’re paying a great deal of attention to it.” He added that the corrections department will be starting a $22-million project to refurbish the kitchen and underground pipes.
The officers’ protest wasn’t the only bad news from the jail on Monday. Officials reported the death of an inmate undergoing treatment in the jail’s psychiatric ward. Joseph Wilner, 59, was arrested earlier this year for driving with a suspended license. It was the third death this year. In July the director, the doctor in charge of medical services for the jails, and another administrator resigned. Complaints about the ward date back to a grand jury hearing in 2004.
The U.S. Justice Department started monitoring Dade County’s jail system in 2011 after a three-year investigation uncovered “deplorable living conditions” and “abusive, inadequate or limited care” for mentally ill inmates, according to CBS Miami.
In April, the county agreed to undertake extensive improvements in the way inmates are treated—particularly those who are mentally ill or suicidal. A new mental-health facility will eventually replace the ninth-floor psychiatric unit that has been the focus of many complaints.
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Jean Reynolds, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus of English at Polk State College, where she taught report writing and communication skills in the criminal justice program. She is the author of nine books, including Police Talk (Pearson), and she publishes a Police Writer Newsletter. Visit her website at www.YourPoliceWrite.com for free report writing resources. Go to www.Amazon.com for a free preview of her book The Criminal Justice Report Writing Guide for Officers. Dr. Reynolds is the police report writing expert for Law Enforcement Today.