Risky Business

"The inmates throw pee, bleach, semen, doo-doo; wee-wees out everywhere"

 Risky Business
Filed under: News

When the corrections counselor tells what it's like to walk past the cell blocks at the Miami-Dade County Stockade, she could almost be describing Clarice Starling's walk down the corridor of a maximum-security prison in The Silence of the Lambs: "As a female, you get slurs; the inmates throw pee, bleach, semen, doo-doo; wee-wees out everywhere; they threaten you, tell you they'll look you up when they get out."

On a rainy Saturday afternoon in late October, approximately two dozen civilian employees of Miami-Dade County gathered in a meeting room at the Miami Gardens Police Station to highlight the risks inherent to working in a corrections facility.

Bumbling a crime near you
Bumbling a crime near you

They say civilian employees like themselves spend as much time alone with inmates and are exposed to the same risks as corrections officers, but are not privy to the salary bonuses and retirement benefits afforded to their badge-wearing counterparts. With the exception of Theophilus Williams, an auto equipment operator with the Department of Corrections (DOC) who organized the meeting, they asked that their names be withheld because they fear losing their jobs. "When we say that civilians should get high-risk pay, they tell us we're lucky to have our jobs, and they threaten to put an officer in your position instead," said one disgruntled employee.

The DOC's list of high-risk employees includes correctional counselors, correctional cooks, labor supervisors, vocational workshop instructors, and maintenance personnel, none of whom receive a hazardous pay benefit. Among other risks, the department states in its Communicable Disease Exposure Control Plan that "being pricked or jabbed with a used hypodermic needle," "having blood or other body secretions spilled on nonintact skin," and "being engaged in an officer/inmate or inmate/inmate altercation involving blood or other bodily fluids" is a "reasonably anticipated occupational exposure" for such employees.

Williams says employees have been raising the issue for years with their union, to no effect. Now at the end of his career, he believes that the county management's respect for its civilian employees has declined. "When I started with corrections in 1975, the county would give you a physical every six months," he said. "Now you have to do your own checkups, because all they're going to test you for today is drugs and alcohol." — Emily Witt


Keystone Cops
Filed under: Flotsam

If you were one of those stringent critics disappointed by the new Miami Vice, another Miami-based cop movie might appease you in coming months. Those who saw Borat its opening weekend (and it appears much of the country did) probably saw the preview for Reno 911: Miami, in which the cops of the Comedy Central show travel to Miami Beach for a police convention. In the trailer, the Reno cops attend a party at Suge Knight's house, are frightened by an alligator in a swimming pool, and deal with what looks like a dead sperm whale washed up on the beach, all to great comic effect.

Larry Bornstein, a Miami Beach Police officer, served as the film's technical consultant in his off-duty hours. "I hope the movie makes it," he says. "It shows a lot of Miami Beach. And their cars are painted similar to ours." Bornstein also worked on the Showtime series Dexter, the Miami Vice movie, and Bad Boys 2. He hasn't seen the Reno preview yet, though.

"Did the whale look real?" he asks. Um, not really. "They end up blowing it up," he says. "It was a wild scene." — Emily Witt


A Louse in the House
Filed under: News

For 46 years Camillus House has served Miami's neediest residents, providing a place to sleep and eat, as well as an abundance of counseling programs for homeless men, women, and children. Earlier this year, the organization cleared the final government hurdle in its longstanding quest for a new home when the Florida Cabinet agreed to allow Camillus to build its new 340-bed facility near the University of Miami's proposed biomedical campus on NW Seventh Avenue between Fifteenth and Seventeenth streets.

Now Camillus is embarking on an ambitious campaign to raise $17 million needed for the project. The last thing the charity wants is another scandal like the one in 2004 that ended with Camillus's former executive director Dale Simpson indicted on grand theft charges, accused of ripping off the nonprofit by using staff, homeless clients, and supplies to renovate his own homes.

But it appears Simpson wasn't the only employee tapping the homeless till. This past October 18, Camillus employees received a revealing memo from human resources director Barbara Romero. "Earlier today we completed the first internal phase of data collection into allegations of inappropriate conduct by employees of the housing services department at Camillus House," Romero wrote.

Any employee involved in misconduct, Romero continued, had until noon, October 23, to submit his or her resignation, or be subject to termination. She also warned employees that they faced disciplinary action if they failed to rat out corrupt colleagues.

On November 3, housing services director Stephanie Giering was fired. Her assistant, Rubietta Jenkins — along with three other employees — resigned. According to a confidential source who used to work at the nonprofit, Giering was suspected of engaging in fraud involving Camillus contracts, vendors, and government grant money. Jenkins and the others were allegedly engaging in inappropriate relationships with the organization's clients.

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