Miami-Dade County has agreed to a long and expensive list of ways to improve how it treats its inmates — particularly those who are mentally ill or suicidal, bringing to an end an investigation the U.S. Department of Justice launched five years ago that found civil-rights violations at county jails.
As part of two agreements approved by county commissioners Tuesday, Miami-Dade must construct a mental-health treatment facility for inmates, which is estimated will cost between $12 million and $16 million to build and more than $29 million a year to operate.
The county must also install a $6 million electronic jail management system that will cost an additional $500,000 a year to maintain, install an additional $1.2 million in video monitoring equipment and spend $1.3 million more a year to train corrections employees.
“It’s time that we change the way we’ve been dealing with this problem,” said County Judge Steve Leifman, a longtime critic of the jail system and reformer who for years has pushed for the mental-health facility. “This is an excellent step in the right direction.”
The DOJ wrapped up its three-year review in 2011, concluding that Miami-Dade’s jail system — the eighth-largest in the nation — engaged in a “pattern and practice of constitutional violation” against inmates housed in deplorable living conditions under abusive, inadequate or limited care.
Since then, officials in the county’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and in the Jackson Health System, which provides medical care for inmates, have been negotiating with the feds, noting improvements they have already made and hashing out the final accords.