Miami, Florida: COVID-19 & Jails

Corrections treats us like we are the scum of the earth, like we don’t deserve protection. The cell is filthy and we have no access to hygiene products. Today [on April 3] I had to make a mask out of my yellow sock and an elastic string out of my catheter tube. We are crowded together with no space between us. We inmates are scared.” - From the declaration of Anthony Swain, a 43-year-old paraplegic caged in Miami, Florida's Metro West Detention Facility

The nearly 2,000 people caged in the Metro West Detention Facility, a majority of whom are Black and Brown, are at grave risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. Crowded conditions make social distancing impossible. Access to handwashing and cleaning supplies is limited. Healthcare is inadequate. 

Along with Dream Defenders, Community Justice Project, Advancement Project National Office, GST LLP, and DLA Piper, we filed an emergency lawsuit against the Miami-Dade Department of Corrections. The lawsuit seeks the immediate release of medically vulnerable people in the jail. For those who remain in the jail, the lawsuit asks that conditions meet the guidelines set by the CDC for protection against the spread of the novel Coronavirus. 

On April 7, a federal judge issued a Temporary Restraining Order requiring the Metro West Detention Center to follow the Center for Disease Control's guidelines to protect the health of people locked inside and prevent the spread of COVID-19.  The order also required the jail to provide basic sanitizing items to people detained there. 

On April 29, the federal judge granted a preliminary injunction that requires Miami’s Metro West Detention Center to follow the Center for Disease Control’s Health Guidelines for the novel coronavirus for a period of 45 days. 

In less than 30 days, that decision was stayed by an appellate court, stating the judge could not usurp the duties of corrections officials by acting as a “super warden” by requiring the jail to provide these most basic hygiene items to keep people healthy.

This case is currently before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.