Friday, April 4, 2008

U.S. opens probe into Miami-Dade jails

The U.S. Department of Justice has launched a civil rights investigation into Miami-Dade County's beleaguered jail system, eying alleged excessive force against inmates and a pattern of suicides at the county's two main facilities over the past few years.


The conditions in this jail, while deplorable, are not uncommon in today's jails and prisons. Underfunded, understaffed, and insufficient training in a context of crowded prisons and jails is quite common and is a repeat of history.

State and federal courts have adopted a hands-off doctrine (again), but the conditions in many jails and prisons are too bad to continue to ignore. I predict that this case is just the first of many that will signal a change of direction for the courts. Because of the failure to fund correctional budgets adequately and because of policies that exacerbate crowding, such as mandatory minimums, states have created the situation in which the courts are once again invited to manage many of our prisons and jails.

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